You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Overcomer’

A white high school coach leads an African-American cross-country runner to triumph — and God — in the Kendrick Brothers’ preachy Evangelical saga.

Alex Kendrick
Alex Kendrick, Priscilla Shirer, Aryn Wright-Thomas, Shari Rigby, Denise Armstrong.
Release Date:
Aug 22, 2019

Rated PG  Running time: 115 MIN.

Official Site: https://www.overcomermovie.com

No matter the setting or circumstances, the solution to every dilemma found in Christian Evangelical films is getting closer to God. That certainly holds true with regards to “Overcomer,” the latest bit of bigscreen proselytizing by writer-director-star Alex Kendrick (“War Room,” “Courageous”). The story of a high school basketball coach who’s forced to take over a cross-country program with only one runner, it’s a drama that affects sensitivity while nonetheless operating as a blunt instrument. Its one-note sermonizing should help it appeal to its target audience, but those not already in the fold will likely be left unmoved.

When economic hard times hit his small-town community, compelling many of his star athletes to relocate, coach John Harrison (Kendrick) watches his expectations for a winning basketball season go down the drain. To add insult to injury, he’s ordered by Principal Brooks (Priscilla Shirer) to take over the cross-country squad — an unwanted assignment made more difficult by the fact that only asthmatic new student Hannah (Aryn Wright-Thomson) wants to compete. Miserable about his situation (evident from him smashing bricks in anger, and throwing his basketball schedule in the trash), John just can’t see beyond himself, until he visits a hospital with his pastor and accidentally stumbles into the room of Thomas Hill (Cameron Arnett), a man who’s lost his sight due to severe diabetes.

Thomas, it turns out, is a former cross-country star, although the real surprise is that he’s also Hannah’s father, having abandoned her during his former shameful life of drugs and degradation. Now, however, Thomas has found his true vision thanks to God (a creaky “irony” he literally verbalizes), and he quickly convinces John to get right with the Almighty. In return, John decides — following prayer with his wife Amy (Shari Rigby) — to introduce Hannah to her dad. That John and Amy are doing this behind the back of Hannah’s disapproving grandmother Barbara (Denise Armstrong) is of little consequence, since “Overcomer” makes clear that John is driven by righteous faith in the Lord and, just as importantly, by his belief in the sanctity of relationships between children and dads — including, of course, the Father himself.

After an opening half-hour of relatively subdued action illuminated by sunlight streaming through windows, and scored to delicate piano and swelling strings, “Overcomer” — headed down a one-way track toward athletic victory via godliness — stops beating around the bush and begins preaching at a near-nonstop pace. This process reaches its apex during a sit-down between Hannah and Principal Shirer in which the latter overtly expounds on God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice, and then leads Hannah in prayer, before assigning a homework assignment from the first two chapters of Ephesians.

Such in-your-face evangelizing continues unabated through a third act that features three consecutive scenes of characters asking God for guidance — a narrative tactic that demolishes any trace of subtlety, and underscores that the film is less interested in persuasion than in simply talking at its viewers.

Bob Scott’s cinematography is as blandly bright and unadventurous as the movie’s performances are functional. Much of that is due to the clunkiness of Kendrick’s script (penned with brother Stephen), which drowns every moment in exposition and male tears. Still, there’s no escaping the corniness of the film’s turns, led by Kendrick as a guy who laughs and cries (and cries, and cries) with robotic earnestness. Laced with white-savior undertones this vaguely “The Blind Side”-esque sports drama doesn’t bother investigating (if it recognizes them at all), “Overcomer” offers nothing in the way of nuance — even its title is awkward — and, also, no respite from its religious propagandizing.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Overcomer'

Reviewed at Bow Tie Cinemas Landmark 9, Aug. 22, 2019. Rated PG. Running time: 115 MIN.

Production: A Sony Pictures release of an Affirm Films, FaithStep Films production in association with Provident Films. Producers: Aaron Burns, Stephen Kendrick, Justin Tolley. Executive producer: Shannon Kendrick.

Crew: Director: Alex Kendrick. Screenplay: Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Bob Scott. Editor: Alex Kendrick, Steve Hullfish, Bill Ebel. Music: Paul Mills.

With: Alex Kendrick, Priscilla Shirer, Aryn Wright-Thomas, Shari Rigby, Denise Armstrong.

More Film


    Filmax Acquires International on ‘The Curse of the Handsome Man’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Barcelona-based boutique studio Filmax has acquired international rights to Argentine producer-director Beda Docampo’s “The Curse of the Handsome Man,” produced by Ibón Cormenzana’s Arcadia Motion Pictures alongside Cados Producciones and Damned Besso –based in Spain—in co-production with Cecilia Díez’s Zarlek Producciones (“Medianeras”) in Argentina. The film is backed by Spanish public broadcaster [...]

  • La-mala-familia

    Javi Tasio Talks ECAM Incubator Title ‘La Mala Familia’

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Via their BRBR collective, filmmakers Nacho A. Villar and Luis Rojo have directed award winning music videos, and commercias. Now they’ll make the leap to features with “La Mala Familia,” a gritty urban drama set in the outskirts of Madrid. Variety spoke with the film’s producer, Javi Tasio, who developed this project at ECAM’s [...]

  • Submerged

    Outsider Takes World Sales on ‘Submerged’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Paul Hudson’s Outsider Pictures has acquired world sales rights to“Submergible” (Submerged) a narco capsule-sub-set drama thriller from Ecuador’s Alfredo León León who debuted with an original prisoner-of-war drama, “Open Wound.” Written by Daniela Granja Nuñez and Alfredo León León, “Submerged” is produced out of Ecuador by León León’s Boom en Cuadro and [...]

  • Charlie-Chaplin-and-Horse-Roy-Export-Co

    Carmen Chaplin to Direct ‘Charlie Chaplin, a Man of the World’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Director-producer-actress Carmen Chaplin is set to direct “Charlie Chaplin, a Man of the World,” a theatrical documentary feature which will add a hardly-explored new facet to the creator of the Tramp, one of the most iconic cinema characters in popular consciousness, plumbing Chaplin’s Romani roots and heritage. Marking the first time that [...]

  • Incitement

    'Incitement' Wins Ophir Award for Best Picture, Becomes Israel's Oscar Submission

    “Incitement” was the best-picture winner at Israel’s Ophir Awards on Sunday night, automatically becoming the country’s choice to vie for the international feature film Oscar. The winning film, a drama about the period leading up to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist in 1995, had its global premiere at [...]

  • LargoAI

    LargoAI Wins Inaugural San Sebastian Zinemaldia & Technology Startup Challenge

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Swiss artificial intelligence and data analytics company LargoAI won Sunday’s first-ever San Sebastian Film Festival Zinemaldia & Technology Startup Challenge. LargoAI’s software provides data-driven filmmaking strategies, similar to those used by major VOD platforms which aggregate and often horde their own user-driven data. From early in the screenwriting process through development and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content