“If you build it, he will come.”
Field Of Dreams is my favorite movie. You won’t find it in many critics’ Top 10 lists. It’s not the type of film that wins Oscars (although, blessedly, it did earn nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Score). And there’s nothing about the filmmaking or the performances that rewrote the rules of cinema like Breathless or Potemkin or Citizen Kane. But as a sustained piece of magical realism, as a story about fathers and sons and regret and redemption and characters willing to follow their hearts to the ends of the earth and back, it is unparalleled. It is also unabashedly sentimental and corny as hell. That’s what makes it so great.
I don’t remember seeing Field Of Dreams in a theater. (Like many comic book fans, the summer of ’89 was all about Batman.) And it was only years later that I finally caught it on television and realized just how special it was. It’s the kind of movie where everything is of a piece – acting, script, direction, production design, and score all working in tandem toward a specific goal. Every scene has its treasures, and the characters are so grounded in the everyday that their reaction to the fantastical stuff feels genuine – skeptical at first, then willing to give in to the magic.
Then there’s the ending, which blindsided and shook me in a way no film had ever done before – or since. The movie is very sneaky about the way it builds to that big reveal, and if you’ve never seen it I don’t want to spoil it for you. Let’s just say there’s something so primal about “having a catch” with your dad, and as someone who didn’t experience that until later in life (my biological dad died when I was two, and my mom remarried right before my fateful viewing of the movie), those final moments hit like an emotional gut-punch I wasn’t prepared for.
Yes, the movie is ostensibly about baseball. But it could ostensibly be about anything that bonds us together as parents and children. And while I get people’s aversion to the movie’s “sticky” sentimentality, that doesn’t mean I agree with it. So what if it’s manipulative? All movies are, in their own special way. So what if it makes you feel something sincerely and without cynicism – that all folks are inherently good, say, or that believing in something bigger than ourselves isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In this age of Trumpism and hate, I’d call that a blessing, not a curse. Because the miracle of Field Of Dreams isn’t The Voice. It’s that a lowly Iowa farmer actually had the guts to answer it.