Every film has flaws. Some are flawed to the point where you are wondering just how low-blood sugar the makers were during the process of creating and producing that particular film.
Other films are largely wonderful, with just enough flaws to keep them human.
My All American was a film with some very obvious flaws.
It started out with the let me tell you a story form of narration that rarely works. That type of narration is often a very weak way to begin and end a film. It removes you emotionally from the primary characters in the story.
Also, My All American decided to put their weakest actors at the very beginning, a big no-no in my opinion. The first scene taking place in Coach Royal’s office was awkward and a weak way to launch the movie.
The timeline went to work telling the story of one of Coach Royal’s former players, Freddie Steinmark, from his childhood to college days. We saw glimpses of his childhood, high school years, his sweetheart Linda, and his hard-worked-for football scholarship to college. We were then shown the first few years of his college football career.
All of these events felt rushed. Passage of time was not clearly marked, it all blurred together. I kept thinking it was just me, that somehow my brain was blocking important details with the what, where, when, why, and how of Freddie’s life. But then the others watching the film with me confirmed that they were also lost.
A few details and reactions to personal events in the lives of characters surrounding Freddie were also unexplained. They just happened.
The film did not gain traction until the last 3rd, when it finally grounded itself in specific times, dates, and events happening chronologically. The focus of the film zeroed in more on Freddie’s personal struggles, how they affected him and those around him. The film wrapped up with an end to Freddie’s story, capped by another weak scene in Coach Royal’s office.
And yet, when the credits started rolling, I was swallowing the lump in my throat. Despite everything that had been done “wrong” in this film, it was successful in the most important way. And why is that? Because….
….by the time the credits rolled on My All American, I knew who Freddie Steinmark was.
A weak beginning, poor time passage, and loose details? In the end, none of that mattered. From his first appearance on the screen until his last, we were given a clear picture of who Freddie Steinmark was, even if the other details surrounding his story were foggy.
Freddie Steinmark was a brave little man. He worked hard, complained little, loved deeply, and never gave up. He was a man of faith and a faithful man. He inspired those around him with his fierce spirit and sincerity. He was confident and humble. His very existence pushed those who came in contact with him to strive to better themselves.
My All American was a film made to honor and respect Freddie Steinmark. It was a film made to introduce you to this extraordinary human being. And while they “technically” failed on many counts, they succeeded in their most important goal. We now know who Freddie Steinmark is, and we are better for it.
My All American, a flawed film that succeeded where it really mattered.
I was inspired both by Freddie Steinmark, and by this film itself. It is encouraging to me to think about the concept of something imperfect still coming through where it really matters. This happened, I believe, because the makers of My All American kept their eyes on their priority and stuck to it. They knew what mattered the most to them and didn’t allow other things to get in the way of that priority.
This is not to say there isn’t room for improvement, perhaps if the makers of My All American had to do this film again they would change some things. But that’s life, isn’t it? You do the best you can with where you are at, and you try your hardest to succeed. Some things you fail, and in other things you do well.
Freddie Steinmark inspired and encouraged me. And this movie itself inspires me to stay focused on the things that truly matter to me, even as I do my best to succeed in everything. I want people to be able to look at my life and know who I am, and I want them to see that while I failed regularly, I succeeded in the things that mattered the most.
May I encourage you to think about the people and things that matter the most? May I encourage you to keep going even after you fail, or are faced with difficulty? May I encourage you to choose to focus on what will have a positive, lasting impact on your life?
Bless you all this Christmas season. The celebration this time of the year is a gift, one that I pray you may find and engage. Merry Christmas!