Who would think an underdog sports story about golf would entertain and excite an audience of over a thousand? The Long Game, starring Jay Hernandez and Dennis Quaid, did just that at SXSW 2023. Director Jose Quintana, who attended the screening, has created a perfect period piece and a reflection of the times for Latino students in West Texas in the 1950s.
Actor Dennis Quaid often picks underdog sports stories. He seems to enjoy the messages they provide. However, Jay Hernandez plays JB Pena, the Latino coach who takes on the challenge of taking a group of young men relegated to being caddies, from the poorly treated help to winning golfers. Hernandez is the closest thing to the film’s lead, but these kids give the film its strength. Their coach realizes that this crew, led by the excellent Julian Works as Joe Trevino, has what it takes to compete against any other player. With Coach Pena’s drive and direction and the boy’s talents, alongside Frank Mitchell, an alcoholic but wholly capable winning coach, they change the face of golf.
Thankfully, Quintana does not go for allowing Mitchell to be the hero. Still, he understands that Pena’s role is the crucial cog in the wheel that catapults this small group of young men into Del Rio golf program history. The story is hardly different than many of its kind, but in Quintana’s capable hands, we get an account with heart and one that offers hope. Quintana obviously sees that this story is a blend of many different influences on young lives. His characters are rich and beautifully fleshed out – not one taking all the limelight – depicting how parents, coaches, partners, and peers shape these boys and their lives. It takes a village, as the saying goes, and Quintana gives us a remarkable group of people supporting and encouraging these young men.
The Long Game is a beautiful film, reflecting the period, giving audiences relevant, significant characters, and offering relatable themes. The crowd at SXSW loved this film, and seeing it in this amazing environment made it all the better. The Q&A that followed was equally entertaining, and hearing audience reactions and questions made it evident that Quintana hit his mark. I am placing five stars up top for this festival favorite – an excellent family film.