Inspirational biographical dramas will always appeal to a certain segment of the audience. But it’s something about being told the same thing over and over again that has severely diminished the effect most films of this genre intend to leave on us. The makers, taking up the heavy job of telling the story of a real baseball maestro who most people probably hadn’t heard of until now, have evidently sidestepped that risk. As a result, The Hill is blissfully loud as the mouthpiece for a host of impactful journeys. Who knows? Maybe one of these will resonate with you too.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
Things don’t really seem out of the ordinary when you see a frustrated teen in baseball gear driving his car through the lonely roads of rural Texas. The boy with braces on his legs hitting home runs with a stick for a bat is none other than Rickey himself. A strict southern pastor for a father with a monthly wage of $50 doesn’t make for a very comfortable life for Rickey and his family. But the Hill family perseveres. Even being bullied out of his job by his shockingly ungrateful flock can’t make pastor James Hill’s faith waver. And what can be better for a righteous man of God such as James than to be showered with the love and support of his longsuffering wife and three kids who’d gladly embrace poverty if it meant their dad wouldn’t have to compromise on his faith? Faith runs the Hill household. For kids with just enough pennies to put together for a burger and coke for their father, dreams are a luxury. And even with his brother’s unswerving encouragement by his side, Rickey’s physical limitations have put his dream of playing in the Major Leagues in a chokehold.
Why Is Rickey’s Father Against His Dream Of Playing Baseball?
You’ve mostly seen characters resembling James Hill painted in an evidently antagonistic light. And there are, in fact, a lot of things about James that make him the thorn in Rickey’s path. But Pastor Hill is far from a bad man. Granted, the unfathomable extent of his faith in the almighty even when his life’s going down the drain does come off a bit obnoxious, but not loving his family with all his heart is one thing that James can’t be blamed for. Even as he bullheadedly reprimands his two boys for idolizing baseball players like God himself, all he’s looking out for is Rickey’s sensitive little heart.
James is a worldly man. He’s aware of the price someone like Rickey would have to pay for even daring to harbor a dream that demands the kind of physical capacity that Rickey sadly doesn’t have. His leg braces coming off is in no way an indication that his condition has miraculously disappeared. What the belt-wielding father with a tender heart shrewdly recognizes in his little boy is an abundance of love for God and the Holy Text. And considering that’d be a safe path for Rickey to follow, which would not only enrich his faithful soul but also give the world a sincere messenger of God’s love, the life of a preacher is what James sees in his little boy’s future. Trampled by his overwhelming fear and insecurities, what James can’t open his eyes to is the fact that Rickey’s indomitable faith manifests itself on the field when he hits the ball.
What’s commendable about The Hill’s way of looking at James’ character is that at no point does it steer us in a direction of its choosing. What you see in James is what you take away from his actions and the motivations behind them. There’s a point where it does come down to us to determine whether the discouragement that comes from James is driven by his protective instincts or his personal ego. The latter is quite an unshakable prospect later on. Especially when he’s still shown to be firm in his disapproval of Rickey’s baseball career, even when he’s a high school baseball star known throughout Texas for his breathtaking skills as a hitter.
What Motivates Rickey To Stay In The Game?
A boy with braces on his legs playing a game that demands full-body rotation does seem like a miracle of sorts. But there isn’t a shortage of miracles in Rickey’s life. The pervasive theme of love and the endearing sense of community blend so well with the elements of the game in The Hill that one doesn’t have to play second fiddle for the other to shine. It’s through the hopeful exploration of Rickey’s mastery of the game that his loving relationship with his brother, grandmother Lilian, and the supportive people of his community are brought out. How is Rickey going to give up on his dream when his brother risks taking a beating from their dad by forging his signature just to ensure Rickey can join the local team? It’s a dream that is wholeheartedly shored up by Lilian, who doesn’t back away from giving James an earful time and again. When the coach himself shows up to speak about the miraculous talent he’s recognized in the boy who struggles to walk, Rickey’s faith in the magic of wielding a bat is nourished and reassured.
Does Rickey Hill Impress Red Murff?
When you’re told the story of a man with more anecdotes of life-altering tragedies than anything else, keeping that little flicker of hope alive becomes a daunting task. Yet, you see the man persevering through it all. And even though at times the bad might succeed in creating a smokescreen, distracting you from all the good, you can still choose to believe in something that might be eluding your sight for the time being. The case with faith is something similar. And as faith runs through the veins of The Hill and nurtures every little sapling of hopes and dreams, you recognize why the characters persist through the overwhelming onslaught of bad luck. Not only does Rickey get handed a gnarly ankle injury just when his high school baseball career starts to soar, but he’s also wrecked by the diagnosis of his degenerative spine injury. It’s here that The Hill concocts a complex medley of how faith works differently for different people.
Rickey is far from the brink of giving up. He’s got God and his gift by his side. Yet, his father sees this depressing diagnosis as a bittersweet nudge for Rickey to choose the path that he believes would be best for his son. But what James perceives as Rickey’s dooming curse is lovingly acknowledged as his greatest blessing by everyone else. So much so that when Rickey himself shudders at the thought of losing his ability to walk for daring to reach for a bold dream, Gracie is the one reminding him of all that he stands to lose if he gives up on his dream. What The Hill organically endorses as one of its reassuring messages is the importance of not just recognizing but appreciating the doors life offers when all else seems to fail. For Rickey, the doors toward a better future came in multitudes of forms.
While one opened through his community’s back-breaking efforts toward raising the money for his surgery, another came in the form of Lilian’s dying wish for Rickey to never settle for anything less than what he wants and deserves. Even Ray himself, the man whose car once bore witness to just how far Rickey can hit a ball with a stick, wrote him a check without a second thought. Despite having a rather straightforward narrative, The Hill finds a way to explore three separate conflicts and their eventual resolution through its ending. Rickey Hill is a hero. And a hero’s win is only made worthy by a hurdle that’s just as formidable as his tenacity, if not more. For Rickey, the hurdle was the fashionably frightening scout, Red Murff. But it’s Rickey Hill we’re talking about. The man has always been a cut above most.
It’s of little surprise that his mastery on the field—being the hitter for both teams—persistent even with a sprained chest—wins over the strict scout like it’s nobody’s business. And even though we’re told that Rickey Hill goes on to fulfill his dreams as a celebrated hitter for the Montreal Expos farm, that’s hardly what The Hill‘s ending wants you to focus on. Above anything else, what The Hill brings to the forefront as the narrative’s heart and soul is Rickey’s relationship with his father. James had been abiding by what he believed a loving father and a man of God should do. And while Rickey’s physical limitations had been a heavy cross for him to bear, James’ spiritual turmoil had been crippling him throughout. But as nothing worth having ever comes easy, James’ enlightenment regarding his personal ego masquerading as God’s will takes a long while to come. And when it does happen, he sees his son as the very epitome of the miracle he’s long been awaiting.