The Boys in the Boat: Reviving the Story of the Underdogs in Rowing

The Boys in the Boat: Reviving the Story of the Underdogs in Rowing

On Christmas Day, 2023, the Boys in the Boat was released in theatres nationwide. Directed by George Clooney and starring Callum Turner, the film attracted audiences to the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 junior varsity rowing team, which went from being at the bottom of their league to representing the United States in the 1936 Summer Olympics. The film follows the life of team member Joe Rantz, who went from a student living alone in poverty to an Olympic champion. 

The film begins with Rantz’s troubled upbringing, living alone in a broken-down car and eating from a soup kitchen. Desperately needing a job to pay for his higher education, Rantz sees a posting for his school’s junior varsity rowing team that will pay and house the eight men who make the team. Though chances of making it onto the team are slim, Rantz becomes one of the fifty men vying for the eight spots at tryouts. The team’s coach notices his integrity, showing up to practices despite being sleep-deprived and sick, and keeps an eye out for him. After two long weeks, eight men with no prior experience rowing became the University of Washington’s junior varsity rowing team. 

Beginning with the tryouts, the film highlights the importance of persistence and passion in every aspect of life. While trying out for the team, the men would attend day-long practices, attend classes, and maintain their academic GPAs. If a student failed in either aspect, they were instantly cut off from the team and had a chance to live with shelter and a paycheck. This film teaches positive lessons on integrity and putting 110% into commitment. 

After UW beats their longtime opponents at UC Berkeley, they gain national recognition, and the coach starts to see the potential of sending the UW junior varsity team to the national collegiate rowing competition. The coach consults with his assistant and the team’s engineer, and both resist his intentions, arguing that the JV team is still a beginner; however, the team’s grit leads to them being selected as the competitor for the national competition.

To everybody’s surprise, the University of Washington won the national competition, and the team inspired the American Dream. Through crowdfunding, the team garners enough money to send them to the 1936 Olympics in Germany, where they earn the gold medal and become champions.

Overall, this film had a positive plot and message to its viewers, yet it lacked a significant climax and conflict. The team’s hardships were only touched on, and the main focus was on the character’s victories. The beautiful cinematography added an emotional edge to the film and emphasized the importance of being persistent, as it leads to big wins. The Boys on the Boat inspires viewers to pursue their dreams because they can come true despite seeming far-fetched.

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Miwako Miki, Arts & Entertainment Editor

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