It’s hard to find a baseball fan who isn’t in love with Field of Dreams. Critically and commercially adored, the movie has carved a place in history as one of the most iconic sports films of all time. Last year, it was officially preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry, ensuring many generations to come will continue to watch the film.
Unlike other movies that focus on a protagonist playing baseball, Field of Dreams is about a man giving former players the opportunity to return to the sport. Kevin Costner (returning to the baseball world after Bull Durham) takes on the leading role of Ray Kinsella, a small-town farmer. He lives in Iowa with his wife and daughter, but is plagued by the poor relationship he had with his father. It’s a setup that many viewers can relate to, having a rocky past with one’s parent. However, Ray hears an odd voice whisper to him in his corn field: “if you build it, he will come”. While his wife agrees to allow him to build a baseball diamond on their farm, the movie definitely plays it coy whether or not he’s hallucinating the advice.
Field of Dreams could be telling the story about the dangers of pushing one’s feelings down. Ray’s father, John, was a massive baseball fan and building the field could just be to feel closer to his dad. There’s a chance that he’s only imagining the voices simply because he misses his father. It’s a smart decision, and one that definitely helps the audience relate to his struggle.
The diamond ultimately sends the Kinsella family into financial ruin. However, the time spent building the actual field has Ray bonding with his own daughter with plenty baseball stories. His wife is easily getting more frustrated with the toll it’s taking on their family monetarily, and her brother eventually tells Ray to give up this foolishness. However, he has no plans on rebuilding his farm especially when he finds deceased player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson playing a game on the diamond. Even though Ray is the only one to see the ball player, who was revered by John, Joe manages to bring quite a few more players to the field from stories the latter had told his daughter.
Even though Mark becomes the main antagonist in Field of Dreams, Ray’s wife still tries to support him throughout. He attends a school meeting where the parents want to burn books from controversial author, Terrence Mann which ultimately springs the couple into action. They both dream of the man, and Ray ends up tracking the author down and bringing him to a baseball game. At Fenway Park, they both notice a statistic pop up for Archibald “Moonlight” Graham after Ray hears a voice telling him to “go the distance”. Mann and Ray eventually choose to team up to track down the former player in hopes of getting him back on the field.
Sadly, it turns out that Graham died sixteen years earlier and he had sacrificed his dream of becoming a baseball player to be a doctor. Of course, Ray eventually finds himself traveling back in time to talk to Graham where the older doctor admits that he has no interest in ever returning to the sport. Ready to give up hope, Ray and Mann head back to Iowa, but not before picking up a young Archie who is hitchhiking.
Turns out, the root of the problem between Ray and his father could be traced back to his teenage years. His dad wanted him to be a ball player, but by his early teens he had given up playing catch after reading a book by Mann. Their relationship only continued to deteriorate until he become a young adult who called “Shoeless” Joe and other players in the Black Sox scandal criminals. Looking back on his childhood, he regrets never making things right with his father and the baseball field could be a way for him to repair that relationship.
Even though the men do manage to get young Archie on the field, things don’t go smoothly. Mark shows up demanding Ray either sell the farm or go down fighting, something that the latter coolly refuses. Before Archie can fulfill his young baseball dreams, he steps off the field to help Ray’s daughter, who ends up choking on a hot dog. It’s no longer the young ball player though, but the older retired man who is confident that his career as a doctor was the path he was always meant to walk. Finally, Mark can see the field the way his brother-in-law does and asks him not to sell after seeing the players for himself.
Field of Dreams ends on an extremely pleasing note: Ray and John ultimately reconciling. The latter has become his young self, playing catcher on the field the entire time. The two happily begin to play catch, something Ray has wanted to do for a long time. His family watches on, content to see the weight he had carried around finally been lifted. Their financial troubles also vanish into the air, with spectators arriving at the field to watch some of their favorite players once again. Sure, the ending might be a little too endearing for most but it ultimately shows how desperate people can be to recapture their childhood innocence. Was Ray simply hearing his own voice throughout the movie? Maybe, he could hear a higher power or maybe he just yearned to be closer to his father. Either way, it’s something many adults who lose a parent are able to relate to and it makes Field of Dreams one of the best movies of all time.