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‘The Boys in the Boat’ Reminds Us of the Power of the Underdog

‘The Boys in the Boat’ Reminds Us of the Power of the Underdog

When you think about great sports movies, from Rudy to The Natural to A League of Their Own, there’s one common narrative that connects each one: an underdog. Someone who, despite all odds, you can’t help but root for. Through their trials, their shortcomings and their flaws, there’s something about their spirit that keeps you hopeful. 

And the only thing better about one underdog, is a team of underdogs. That’s what we find in The Boys in the Boat. A group of young, working-class men from the University of Washington come together to work hard — physically, emotionally, financially — and defy everyone’s expectations by becoming the best rowing team of 1936. 

“I like stories of people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps,” director George Clooney told RELEVANT. The acclaimed actor and filmmaker first fell in love with the inspirational story when he read the 2013 book of the same name. 

“I like sports movies, in general,” he shared, “but I liked that this was a true story. The romance, the unbelievable things that went wrong for them. And while these people weren’t supernatural heroes; they’re just people with great drives. It’s like a good, old-fashioned movie.”

While the story itself may feel “old-fashioned,” the message behind it is not. Joel Edgerton, who plays Coach Al Ulbrickson, knows that now, more than ever, our culture needs to be reminded of the human strength that’s inside all of us. 

“Coming out of Covid lockdown, I was craving to watch a movie like this,” Edgerton said. “There’s something about that period that reminded me, when things get bad and adversity hits, people become the most helpful to each other. And I think one of our core values as human beings is that we want to be together. We want to cooperate and help each other. 

“Sport is one of those things that stands above politics and all the things that divide us,” he continued. “Sports movies make us feel good. It’s important every now and then to be reminded that human beings are at their core really decent animals.” 

Edgerton’s words rang true for the young actors who took on both the emotional and physical toll of playing hard-working rowers. Callum Turner, who plays Joe Rantz, shared that the cast trained for five months by rowing four hours daily. 

“The way that we got to do it was nothing short of remarkable,” he shared. “They set us up as basically a professional sports outfit.”

But while the physicality of a sports film draws viewers in, it’s the tug at the heartstrings that stick with us long after the credits role. Take Hadley Robinson’s character Joy, for instance. As Joe’s love interest, Robinson’s role allows audiences to see themselves in the greater narrative — a person who is on the edge of her seat wishing, hoping, wanting the team to pull it off. 

“Joyce offers up a sort of positive light,” Robinson said. “A juxtaposition to that energy of survival. She’s in a similar position, but approaching it from a different perspective.”

It’s that positivity that rings throughout the whole film. Despite the setbacks and naysayers, the team fights for the light and clings to the hope of a brighter future. And as a new year begins, it’s a gentle reminder that no matter what you might be facing as an underdog, there’s plenty of hope for your own future. 

The Boys in the Boat is now playing in theaters.

To hear more of our conversation with the cast of The Boys in the Boat, click here

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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