Field of Dreams “is only movie I’ve seen that makes me cry every time I see it,” writes Arizona Star critic Phil Villarreal in the first of a series. “And instead of hardening over time I grow more pliable to its potent father-son sentiment.
“Each viewing, I sob not only when Kevin Costner asks his time-traveling ghost dad (Dwier Brown) for a game of catch, but also during James Earl Jones’ passionate, nostalgia-sopped ‘people will come’ speech about baseball and its relationship to fleeting childhood memories that haunt your soul, as well as when the young Moonlight Graham — energized that he gets the chance to fulfill a dream of youth and play with the big leaguers — bows to his fate by stepping off the diamond to become a doctor and save the choking girl.
“The first time I saw the movie it was with my family the Saturday after it opened, which almost never happened in the Villarreal household. Money and especially time were tight, with softball tournaments, YMCA basketball and the like always distracting us from sitting down together on the couch, let alone in the theater.
“Maybe once or twice a year the stars would align enough for us to get out of the house together, usually to see the all-consuming blockbuster of the day (Jurassic Park, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Dick Tracy or Speed) and almost always it was a vote between me and my two younger sisters that determined the film.
“But it wasn’t so April 22, 1989, when my dad, inspired by a trailer he’d seen while falling asleep to Letterman, demanded we’d see some weird baseball movie none of us had ever heard of. My sisters and I, as well as my mom, bitched his ears off all the way down Interstate 10, as we made our way to the Century Park 16 to indulge our patriarch’s rare flash of whimsy.
“And afterward we were silent, awash in tears just like the rest of the crowd. Well, all except for my dad, who is and always has been too tough to cry, at least in front of his son. On the way back home we all thanked him for making his crazy choice. To this day, when a family quorum happens to be assembled and one of us brings up the Field of Dreams story, my dad gets a wistful, knowing look in his eye.
“When I moved out of the dorms and got an apartment with three friends I bought the movie on VHS and watched in alone in my apartment, embarrassed to have tears dripping down my cheeks as my roommates walked in while the credits rolled. I remember blubbering through it when I penned my review for the Star in 2005, then again in 2007 I saw the movie while cradling my sleeping infant son, Luke. It was three months after he’d been born, and Jessica was finishing out the semester teaching middle school science. I’d adjusted my schedule to stay home with him Fridays, as well as several hours each morning, and most of the time he was either sleeping, sucking down bottles or screaming.
“He fell asleep during the movie, and rather than placing him in the bassinet as I usually did I kept him in my arms, looked down at him and wondered how long it would be until he’d play catch with me, and when he’d decide he was too old to play with me anymore. I wondered if I’d ever say anything dumb enough to convince him to stop talking to me, and what I’d say to get him to hear my apology. Luke woke up crying for a bottle, and I was sitting there crying as well. We were such a mess, and I realized then that I’d never forget that moment, and I had a movie to thank for it.”