Field of Dreams as a film embodies that idea of hope and redemption connecting a series of strangers through common thread of America’s pastime.
Ray Kinsella (Costner) a somewhat jaded former hippie turned Iowa farmer is inspired to transform his farm into a baseball field through a divine vision and the echoing quote “If you build it, he will come.” Kinsella’s unconventional behavior/actions are viewed as the work of a crazy man. Financial pitfalls place Ray at a crossroads. Maintaining the field may force him to sell the farm, while the alternative returning the space to farmland will eradicate his dream. A PTA meeting sparks Kinsella’s desire to investigate/research Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones) a controversial author who has fallen out of the public eye.
When Shoeless Joe Jackson the leader of the infamous 1919 Chicago White Sox and eventually the 8 members known for/banned by MLB for throwing the World Series emerge on the field Ray knows that his efforts are paying off. However, not everyone can see these heroes of yesteryear. When Ray travels to Boston to engage Mann in his quest, he is met with cynicism, but Mann is eventually converted when the duo see a message at Fenway.
They travel to Minnesota were they search for and in time find a baseball player/turned doctor whose career was “the blink of an eye” Moonlight Graham. While Ray’s efforts to bring the elder Graham (Burt Lancaster) back to the field are initially rebuffed, a young Graham emerges as a hitchhiker the following day.
Along the drive Kinsella reveals to Mann that, as an adolescent, his father attempted to live out his baseball dreams via his son(playing catch) and that he refused in part because he had read one of Mann’s novels. Ray provides further insight into the relationship telling Mann that when he left home he hurt his father by saying that “I can never respect a man whose hero was a criminal.” That hero was Shoeless Joe; however, Ray could never apologize because his father died shortly afterwards and there all the connections are made.
In giving Joe Jackson his chance at redemption, Ray has the opportunity to make peace with the memory of his father.
Upon returning to the field the youthful Graham enters in a game with the other players thus allowing him the true opportunity to fulfill his dreams. After the game Mann is invited and accepts the invitation to go back through the cornfields with the players presenting him with the unique opportunity to report/write about the experience. This situation opens the door for Mann to redeem himself as a writer. Ray is initially frustrated by the snub; but, in the final scene he rejoices as his youthful father emerges in catching gear were he meets Ray’s wife and child. Finally the two are left alone to play catch one last time.
This story demonstrates the power of having faith in ones dreams and the redeeming rewards associated with maintaining that faith through difficult circumstances. Using baseball as a backdrop, Field of Dreams serves as a reminder that hope persists with every new season.
This film can appear outrageous and some of the individual scenes too convenient particularly the time travel/flashback to 1972 were the deceased/elder Dr. Graham encounter Ray. However, like many fantasy/adventure films it relies/demands that the viewer buys into the possibilities. While the story has its cute or too picture perfect moments, at its heart, Field of Dreams succeeds because it has a universal relate-ability. Many people have unfortunate failures during their early life that they wish could be amended and even more would love the opportunity to quit their mundane albeit necessary jobs to follow and live out their dreams.
-Written by Michael Colavita