Lorelei Savaryn recommends The Hill, starring Dennis Quaid, for uplifting, meaningful family entertainment.
The Hill is a movie about faith and baseball, because for Rickey Hill, the two have always gone together.
At a young age, Rickey Hill, played by Colin Ford, shows an extraordinary ability for hitting a baseball even as he is burdened by leg braces from a degenerative spinal disease. Against all odds, Rickey becomes a baseball phenomenon with major league potential, despite years of discouragement from his stern, pastor father, played by Dennis Quaid, who wants to protect him from injury and have him following in his footsteps.
Our family of six sat down together to watch the movie, an accurate portrayal of baseball player Rickey Hill’s life, together. It impressed us on a number of levels, including the sweeping cinematic shots, moving score, and attention to period detail. In those ways, it called to mind the timeless nostalgia of movies like The Sandlot or Field of Dreams. But perhaps most importantly, The Hill was a film that uplifted the love of both family and faith, which is something truly special to find.
We appreciated that Rickey’s family is imperfect, but deeply loving and committed to each other through many struggles. The film is realistic in the hardships the characters face such as poverty, unemployment, and crises of faith, but it also lifts up the good, the beautiful, and the true in how the characters navigate their journeys.
Along those lines, Director Jeff Celentano took great care to ensure that this was a mainstream film that represented well the intersection of faith and life, in all its complexities. A strong example of this is in the character of Rickey’s father. A faith-filled, flawed man, Rickey’s dad struggles with hardships of his own and a desire to control the things that frighten him. This results in years of discouraging Rickey’s pursuit of baseball. Through his walk with God and through the inspiring example of his son, Rickey’s father learns to examine his heart and acknowledge his weaknesses. That growth allows him to be there for Rickey right when his son needs him the most. As a mom, I can understand his desire to keep his son safe from harm. I appreciated the heart-wrenching portrayal of a man learning to support his child through the ever-constant process of letting go and learning to come alongside.
Rickey Hill walks a life of simple, true faith as he patiently and steadfastly trusts that he can glorify God by using the gift he’s been given when swinging the bat, even through immense pain, and even when his father is slow to see the same. In the penultimate scene, Rickey, still recovering from a major surgery, draws a cross in the sand (his real-life trademark) and takes the plate at a try-out for the major leagues.
Rickey shared with me what it was like to live out that moment: “As I stepped out … I felt the Holy Spirit chill my body from inside out … I had a partner up there with me, helping me out. When you have somebody like God almighty, the author of every game you could possibly play … the author of every story that you can tell, it’s just great to have that partner with you … that’s really the first time I had felt that feeling. That night showed that I was not alone.”
Director Jeff Celentano added: “The message of the movie is if you have faith and believe in God, there’s somebody taking care of you and who loves you forever … and that’s what Rickey had in him the whole time.”
As a testament to the movie’s impact, after the final credits rolled our 9-year-old son ran outside, grabbed his baseball bat, and began to practice hitting. As parents, we were able to engage our children in meaningful discussions of the potential in each and every one of us to use our talents to glorify God, of perseverance, and of the vital truth that we are never, ever alone.
The Hill is not to be missed by those seeking virtue in entertainment and a truly wholesome, uplifting, and meaningful family film.
Rated PG for thematic content, language, and smoking throughout. This movie releases Friday, August 25, 2023; get tickets and information at BriarcliffEntertainment.com.
Copyright 2023 Lorelei Savaryn
Images: ©2023 Briarcliff Entertainment, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Lorelei Savaryn joyfully joined the Catholic Church in 2016 after many years as a Protestant. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, four children, and dog named Saint. She writes about her faith and family life on ThisCatholicFamily.com. She is also a children's author. Her debut novel, The Circus of Stolen Dreams, released in Sept 2020 from Penguin Random House/Philomel.