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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Last Whistle is a drama centered around a beloved high school football coach (Brad Leland) who lets his pride and desire to maintain a winning streak put the health of one of his star athletes in jeopardy. While there isn't much violence, one highly regarded player dies during practice, which could upset kids. Sports and sporting conduct are major themes, and viewers also see some of the not-so-sporting behavior that can be part of the athletic industry. Both positive and negative tensions arise as the result of being a part of a team. There's a little strong language ("bulls--t" and "ass"), as well as several scenes in which a character drinks too much. Themes also touch on maternal pain, the challenge of balancing career and family, and the positive and negative impact that sports can have on a teen's identity. One subplot shows the negative effects of jealousy while simultaneously highlighting the character strength of forgiving yourself; other strengths showcased in the movie include compassion, humility, and teamwork.
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What's the story?
THE LAST WHISTLE centers on beloved small town high school football Coach Victor Trenton (Brad Leland), who's a father figure to his team -- which is on a winning streak. An "old-school" leader who believes in discipline, team unity, and punctuality, Coach Vick punishes the whole team when one player, Mark Smith (Tyler Perez), deliberately decides to be late to practice because he's upset that team favorite Benny Robinson (Fred Tolliver Jr.) is getting more playing time. As a result of Coach Vick's excruciating drills, Benny collapses during practice -- and doesn't get back up again. The town's perception of Coach Vick begins to change -- but instead of acknowledging the role that his pride and ambition played in the tragedy and allowing the team to grieve properly, Coach Vick tries to push the team to continue their winning streak. Then Benny's mother, Theresa (Deanne Lauvin), presses charges, which finally forces Coach Vick to self-evaluate and come to grips with himself. He must decide whether his reputation and his career are worth his pride.
Is it any good?
While there are obvious budget restraints in effect here, the characters' emotional arcs and the screenwriting by director/writer Rob Smat save the film. Leland, who's been in other sports dramas (including Friday Night Lights), does a good job as Coach Vick, showing that it's never too late to take ownership of your character or personality flaws. As Benny, Tolliver Jr. is both aspirational and endearing, and his role clearly depicts that, for many young men, a "father figure" doesn't necessarily live at home. His respect for Coach Vick is admirable. And as Theresa, Lauvin deftly personifies the role of a strong black mother who loses her only child. Her anger isn't depicted in a stereotypical manner, and her subtle shift toward empathy for Coach Vick at the end of the film could spark great conversations on forgiveness with preteens and young adults.
While Coach Vick centers the film, The Last Whistle would have benefited from more interconnectedness with the other supporting characters and subplots. It would have been nice to see more interaction and scenes with the story's athletes and young adults; Coach Vick's many solo bar scenes get redundant after a while. And the ending is overly abrupt: There's really no closure regarding what will become of Coach Vick's life after he gets past this challenge. But the movie positively highlights Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in young athletes, a serious real-life condition that affects youth in sports including football, soccer, basketball, and more.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Last Whistle depicts sports culture. What are some of the positive effects of participating in a sport? What character strengths does playing sports help develop? What impact does playing sports have on the team's star athlete, Benny Robinson?
Are any of the athletes or coaches in the movie role models? What character strengths and actions do they display, if any? What role do guilt and forgiveness play in this movie?
How does Coach Vick demonstrate pride? What are some of the positive and negative effects of pride?
- In theaters: June 26, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: July 30, 2019
- Cast: Brad Leland, Fred Tolliver Jr., Deanne Lauvin, Jim O'Heir
- Director: Rob Smat
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Character strengths: Compassion, Humility, Teamwork
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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