Go With The Flow

Heart of Champions
Stars: Michael Shannon, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton Alex MacNicoll, Ash Santos, Lilly Kreig and David James Elliott
Director: Michael Mailer
Scriptwriter: Vojin Gjaja
Composer: Julian Scherle
Cinematographer: Edd Lukas
Construction Film/Vertical Entertainment
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 120 Minutes 

Just about every sport has a team that hasn’t won in a long time. Baseball, hockey, football, basketball – and now we have rowing.  Yes, rowing, as in the Olympics where a team competes on muscle strength, endurance and on water. (Remember the rowing sequence from “Ben Hur?”)  This time, it is a rowing team from Beeston (spelling quite close to “Boston”) and one of the rowers may be bound for an USA Olympic team because of his skill.  Well, just what is skill in rowing. You will find out in this interesting film about team work, practice drills, how important rowing is in some colleges and to listen to the great sound track by Julian Scherle that goes with the wonderful cinematography by Edd Lukas. Oh, yes, Michael Shannon (“Knives Out”) is the rowing coach and Alexander Ludwig (“Vikings”) is one of the rowers. 

We begin with a new rowing coach at Beeston, Jack Murphy (Shannon) and he has been given the job by an old army buddy, Mr. Heels (David James Elliott.) Heels has a son, Alex (Ludwig) who will be closely watched by officials to see if he can make it into an Olympic rowing team. We meet other rowers, Chris (Charles Melton from “Riverdale,”) and John (Alex MacNicoll from “13 Reasons Why,”) The team undergoes strenuous training with Murphy and some complain while others can handle it.  The coach is trying to get the guys to work together, instead of individual rowing which is a definite problem on the water.  Eventually, they get the idea and soon are winning boat races. Along the way, we see typical college life with girlfriends and parties. There is one troubled student, though, Chris (Melton) who begins to move away from the camaraderie of the team. At this point, the fun and games turn into a study of school life and the pressures one puts on oneself to succeed.  

Michael Shannon does a good job as a coach who has seen better times and is trying his best to regain himself. Alexander Ludwig as the student with a know-it-all father gives us both sides of the coin. How he acts with Dad and how he acts away from Dad. David James Elliott is “Dad,” and you could spot his disposition a mile away.  

“Heart of Champions” is at its best when the team is working together in a rowing capacity on the water.  With overhead camera shots of water and the water design the boats make as they are rowed in a steady rhythm, plus a soundtrack to accompany the action, the audience can relax and enjoy. It is the college party sections that don’t co-inside with the rest of the story, and the back-and-forth isn’t always in sync.  Serious issues are presented with a bare resolution. College alcoholic consumption for one. 

“Heart of Champion” is an interesting view of a sport that is not widely known. Showing the beauty of it is well done, but the basic story has a weak presentation.


Copyright 2021 Marie Asner