Now showing from director Michael Mailer and Vertical Entertainment is the story of working together as a team with the HEART OF CHAMPIONS.
Coach Jack Murphy (Michael Shannon) has come to Beeston University to be a part of the varsity rowing team. Captain Alex Singleton (Alexander Ludwig) rules with a sort of iron fist and sarcasm that does not really help the team. John (Alex MacNicoll) is the soft space between Alex and the rest of the team.
Murphy makes himself quite clear from the beginning, learn to row as a team or get off the team. He especially makes it clear to newcomer Chris (Charles Melton) arrives with an emotional chip on his shoulder. He also needs to deal with Alex’s father (David Elliott) who has a history with the coach and is not afraid to throw it in his face.
Chris is in love with Sara (Lilly Krug) who introduces her friend Nisha (Ash Santos) to John. A rift, as if they need another one, already exists between Alex and John over Sara keeping tensions high.
But as the team learns from one another, they grow as a team and Coach Murphy believes that they have the potential to do what has been impossible for so long – beating the Harvard team. As they get close to that match, the team begins to break apart and a tragedy causes them all to believe that going on may be impossible.
The possible and impossible meet on the water.
Shannon as Coach Murphy comes into his position with unresolved issues that haunt him. Seeing the potential of the rowing team, he starts coaching as if they no nothing which they actually do not. There is so much disconnect with the varsity team that Shannon gives his coach thoughtfulness, and instead of just talking – he actually gives examples that they can embrace. Shannon has always been an acting I have watched closely because of the roles he chooses (i.e. Nine Perfect Strangers is an amazing example).
Ludwig as Alex is a young man who is being pushed toward the Olympics by a father who sees nothing but glory. Trying to please both his father and be loyal to a team that he has finally come to understand and want to be a part of is the battle he faces. Ludgwig shows the duality that will eventually be his downfall when choosing a path that is so destructive.
MacNicoll as John is a very empathetic young man who sees his team as a brotherhood and would do anything for them – even Alex. He works hard and loves girlfriend Sara being a focus of his life as well. Seeing the potential for the team is exciting and he even wants to help the coach with his goal of winning. MacNicoll is charming, funny and caring in this role and well done.
Melton as Chris has a history that he does not want to share with anyone and that gives the impression that he is uncaring and standoffish. The only person who manages to break through it is John and they become fast friends. Melton hides the pain of his character well and only let’s slip what he wants when he wants, and it is powerful and painful.
Krug as Sara is entertaining, charming and realizes that there is strain between Alex and John. Santos as Nisha is opinionated and makes an instant assessment of Chris without really knowing him. Once she does, the two work their way through an intense relationship.
Vertical Entertainment is a global independent distributor that offers a unique wealth of experience minus the studio costs. They have won a Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Actress for Molly Shannon’s role in OTHER PEOPLE and the film won a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Film Limited Release, Best International Film for Babak Anvari’s UNDER THE SHADOW, a BAFTA and three Independent British Independent Film Awards as well.
HEART OF CHAMPIONS is a story of the lives of the young men on the rowing team. Trying to find their way to being cohesive not only on the water but on land as well. Finding the right coach, it is only when Jack Murphy arrives does it mean that they might have finally found someone who can handle the group of young men.
Watching them grow on screen from sarcastic and broken apart to a team that comes alive on the water is what makes this film enjoyable to watch. There are issues that each of the characters face and some face them head on and other fight the demons that seem to take them down the wrong road.
Gather any team together and watch to see how a team become a family of brothers that learn to face it all together.
In the end – talent wins races and courage creates champions!