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“Radio” Final Film Critique Essay (Movie Review)


This movie is based on the real life experiences of James Kennedy and dwells on a coach for a high school football team. The coach is named Ed Harris and the high school for which he coaches a team is found in a small town. He makes friends with a man named Cuba Gooding Jr., who was nicknamed Radio because he was passionate about transistors.

Radio has a developmental disability as described by the author. He is the primary source of humor in this drama. He is the main target of jokes and all the involved teases. The relationship between Radio and the coach initially raises eyebrows, but his developmental progress and prosperity under the coach’s leadership proves to a great inspiration to the local town dwellers making them appreciate their differences (Perez-Pena, 2008).

This summary portrays the coach’s dedication to socializing with less privileged and the fact that he is appreciative about disabled people. People do not believe in this friendship at first. This portrays the people’s insensitivity and lack of appreciation and respect for the disabled persons. However, Radio’s prosperity under the coach’s supervision makes people change their minds and start to see things the other way round (Rosenberg, 2000).

The coach discovered that most of his players were actually bullying Radio who was retarded, young and black, hence vulnerable to mistreatments by others. Having noticed the bullies from his players on Radio, the coach decides to dedicate most of his time as a coach and gives special attention to him.

He makes him useful during sports practice and eventually incorporates him into the school team. Initially, Radio’s mother who is a widow named S. Epatha Mekerson is filled with suspicion while Harold’s wife Debra Winger and daughter Sarah Drew get jealous. Elsewhere, the principal of the school becomes worried and the father of the player Mr. Chris Mulkey gets furious about the whole thing. However, as Radio becomes prosperous and successful, everyone in the community comes to adore and appreciate him (Rosenberg, 2000).

Actors and acting

Drama is the main tool used by the director in delivering his message in this movie. The things that Radio becomes victim to are used purposefully to make viewers sympathize with the character. At the beginning, any viewer may be wondering what could make such a man wander on train tracks with grocery buggy but, as time goes, they gain a partial understanding when they find out what he wants.

This brings to the recollection of the viewer all the crazy things they used to do during their early stages of life. I never felt so good when Radio went to town, and a lady whose child was looking at him suddenly snatches the child out of his view. This is totally inhuman as the lady views him as less human and a being that should not get near her child. She doesn’t want her child to look at him either with thoughts that he could cause the child nightmares (Rosenberg, 2000).

At the beginning of the movie, viewers are provided with welcoming female background voice and the setting is in the south. The members of the community are obsessed with prejudice. This means that they have the tradition of prejudging what someone is going to do. They also have predefined capabilities for every person they meet.

This is a very dangerous belief as it is against innovation. Judging what someone can offer or their abilities by simply looking at them instead of letting them prove themselves to you is not a good way of evaluation. This community is obsessed with isolation of less privileged without caring why people have such problems and what could cause them. Several minds, when put together, can think well than selected few.

This theme again manifests itself in the lady who snatches her child out of radio’s view. She knows that there is nobody in society who can offer their children nothing but danger and tensed environment. Typically, this movie shares nearly aspects with “To kill a Mockingbird”, another film whose relation to it is substantiated by the fact that the spirit of Coach Harold Jones revives the lost spirit of an alienated, desperate man.

Everyone in “Radio” is kind, nice or a bit mean but basically niceness dominates, and this minimizes drama (Hebersky, 2001).

The film is also less gripping as compared to “To kill a Mockingbird “since it lacks a hint of gothic menace, which is actually present in the latter. As I have already said, the existing drama involves childish arguments between the coach and his school principal, which many times reach perfect agreements.

Also, there are baseless appeals by rebellious parents who claimed they wanted Radio excommunicated from school and taken to aninstitution for students with special needs. However, these are lame allegations and definitely unjustifiable as well as self-thwarting ideas.

The theme of alienation unveils itself yet again. When you demand for a school administration to excommunicate a student just because he has developmental in capabilities, you are just but trying to deny someone his rights and freedoms to socialize with friends and attain quality education from an institution where he feels most comfortable, and the learning environments favors his tastes and preferences. I think the director is after elucidating the high level of hypocrisy that prevails in this community, by creating these scenes.

The society is composed of selfish members who never see anything beyond their own interests. These women instead of looking for measures that could help the boy, suggest their discontinuation from the school. They have no idea that this could lead the victim out of the frying pan into the fire. He is already suffering from the jeers and bullies from his schoolmates and taking him away from school to a special need institution would make him even more frustrated.

However, Radio enjoys redemptions coming from level of performances. Ed Harris tries to nurture him and shows him the required directions, but still shows him a certain level of awkwardness to prevent him from assuming and acting super human. Under normal circumstances, the news about a mentally handicapped person is supposed to ring a bell and attract a lot of attention.

However, Radio’s situation is underestimated by everyone; it does not take anyone by surprise at all. This is a lack of responsibility by the community. When a person has a problem like this, a good community should be able to empathize and take relevant actions collectively as if they were themselves the victims (Hebersky, 2001).


The cinematography is made up of different types of angles including medium long shot and medium shots. The directors’ intentions were to tell the actual story using the movie. This particular film is based on a true story just like I said before, and the actual Harold Jones and James Robert Kennedy are as they are portrayed in the last scenes of the film.

The director simply added flavor to the actual activities that happened in the real story and then organized them into scenes making the movie. This means that the themes that prevail in the actual events are fully developed in this film. The film takes the style of the New Testament since it involves a kind man named Radio who can be compared to Christ and Harold his disciple.

Radio and his disciple Harold try to preach their gospel and spread the message of the need to love and be kind to each other. They deliver this message to a community which is made up people of two kinds, that is, people willing to receive the message and get converted and a larger number who are rebellious and resistant to the message terming it as misleading and coming from unbelievable source.

They refuse to believe the message that is given to them until the end when they see the fruits it bears. This is when they come to discover their foolishness and actually decide to embrace it. The society then gets converted from hating Radio and his disability to appreciating him. This also makes them understand that it is normal for people to be different even if being different means lacking things that others do have (Hebersky, 2001).

After keenly studying this movie, I cannot deny the fact that it is very sad but my observations lead me to several conclusions, one of them is that we should never judge others on the basis of their color or abilities. Less able people are as important as those with perfect abilities. The main target audience for this film is the youths.

They are warned against underestimating their disabled counterparts but to embrace them appreciate them and accept them the way they are. The reason I pick on the youths as the primary target audience by the director is the fact that Radio’s schoolmates, who have been used to the highest capacity in developing the theme of segregation and racial prejudice, are warned against the mistreatments they inflict on Radio. The story revolves around them.

This movie however has neither clearly defined villains nor heroes. The villains that are discussed do not play the complete roles of villains. They also come to welcome a change of who they are later on at the end of the film. The film is also full of emotional scenes. One might think it is interesting but it keeps changing your moods as you watch it. All in all, it is generally emotional.

This is manifested when Radio is left out in the rain; it almost causes the viewer to shed tears. It even gets worse when he tries to run through the field while it is raining and fall in the muddy field. After viewing this movie, it fills a heart and lifts a spirit; it shows that there comes a time when it is wiser to do the right thing instead of a popular thing.

It reminds us that it is fine to do the right thing that seems wrong rather than doing a wrong thing that seems right. When something is right, it remains so even if no one believes it is. On the other hand, a wrong thing is wrong even if everyone thinks otherwise. When Radio is left behind by everyone else, he runs to the field and starts to play alone.

Viewers are reminded that people like Radio and those having similar problems do not chose to be who they are but rather find themselves there. It is therefore their responsibility to make them understand themselves and make them have self-esteem (Hebersky, 2001).

The team learns a lesson in the year 1974 when they decide to leave Radio behind when they have their visit to Northwestern High for a football match. The head coach Fraser claimed that the bus was so full that Radio could not find space. He therefore had to be the one to remain behind.

Jones did not like this all but then what could he have done? He was only the assistant coach by then and had to go by the head coach. The principal also had to work with what Mr. Fraser had said since he was the chief organizer of the trip and was in charge of all aspects; so Radio never made it to Northwestern High School for the match. The team however lost the match 27-20 to the visitors.

From this day onwards, Radio was never left out every game that the team played and was included among those travelling for any competition. After this experience and the consistent inclusion of Radio in the school team squad, the Yellow Jackets enjoyed a series of successful performances all the way to that year’s finals.

This is a clear indication and an explanation of the proverb, “never judge a book by its cover.” Excluding Radio from the football team is accompanied by heavy consequences. They lose terribly when they visit a school to play a football match.

They all come to appreciate his importance to the team. With all the regrets, the squad swears never to repeat the mistake and indeed they see the impact of doing this as justified by the fact that they enjoy fine performance and advance all the way to the final that particular year. More often than not, we are tempted to underrate certain resources due to the fact that we are highly affected by prejudgment. We end up letting go of very important resources for fear that they are useless (Henning & Hiller, 2012).

However, we fail to realize that these resources may be the key ingredients we need to achieve our objectives. One can only realize and discover the worth of others by giving them a chance to prove it to them. The director tries to warn us that the people we despise may actually be very important to us. We may be losing a lot by letting go or underrating others on the basis of racial grounds or on our prior conceptions of what they are. We should not prejudge other people’s capabilities, not until we give it a try.

Radio’s mother’s death is accurately in line with that of the real life. She passes on somewhere in the year 1994 and her death upsets Radio. He even smashes two holes in his wall due to the grief. He is restrained by the police and furthermore, he becomes lonely due to the absence of the mother. He has no one to communicate with or to offer him company in the evenings. However, he gets lucky since, after school, he is taken care of by the brother.

The rest of his requirements were taken care of by Hanna and Jones who were his coach. This scene is used by the director to alert the viewers of the difficulties and pain faced by people who lose their loved ones. They languish in living with the pain of not being able to see the pole they lost (Henning & Hiller, 2012).

Radio remembers his mother’s absence every evening and when the frustrations overcome him, he decides to smash two holes on the wall. This is a man who is already facing many problems with his life and filled with pain originating from his failure to earn the appreciation of the society. He has already struggled with his life and tirelessly fought his way to be embraced against all odds. He is now facing the biggest temptation of losing the most valued people in his life (Hebersky, 2001).

This is one of the most painful parts of this film. Most viewers may find this the right time to use their handkerchiefs to wipe their tears. I think that though the deaths of the Radio’s mother and the actual death coincide, the director of this film was bringing to the viewers’ minds the theme of melancholy originating from the loss of a loved one.

He wants the viewers to fit in the shoes of the victim and feel the pain he is feeling. The events may have been an edited version of the actual happenings but all the same they portray the message of what might have happened. With a lost mother and the surrounding problems, one may imagine what Radio was going through at this moment (Hebersky, 2001).

Radio had a lot of effects on the on the coach, in fact, it is claimed that the coach quitted his job to spend more time with his family. From the actual true life story, there is no record of Coach Harold quitting his job. However, this aspect has been used in the film as an element of fiction to portray how Radio affected his life.

During the year, the athletic director and football head coach who had served for fourteen years was asked by the school principal to quit the job. Mr. Sam’s’ reason for relieving the athletics director of his duty was a change of strategy and management system according to him.

Coach Jones expresses his frustrations at this decision claiming that he was asked to retire or resign, which he refused and according to his opinion, this was supposed to mean he was fired. The principal said he was after hiring someone with more experience and who could deal with other sports other than athletics and football (Perez-Pena, 2008).

This scene though a fiction developed by the director according to my opinion was inserted to elaborate some of the consequences that the head coach had to face for being too nice to Radio and the fact that the entire athletics and football management committee had finally settled on appreciating the role played by Radio in their squad (Perez-Pena, 2008)..

The coach had mixed feelings about playing Radio in his squad every time they had a competition. He had made several positive observations about the player and concluded he was energetic. He openly confesses how privileged he feels to be alive. He claimed he could not wait to be in the mindset. The coach was always pleased whenever he played Radio. Radio himself felt encouraged and happy whenever he found himself in Mr. Harold’s squad.

He got to understand how important he was and how his contribution was vital to the team. The abilities of this man were probably exaggerated. It is not logical to claim that the team lost during their visit to Northwestern High School simply because they never included one man in their squad. However, it is important in the sense that it reminds viewers that the member whom they consider as a surplus is as important as each and every other member of the squad (Henning & Hiller, 2012).

The director Mr. Michael Tollin would soon get inspired to turn Radio’s experiences and life experiences into a film for future reference by others.

In conclusion, this movie which is full of emotional activities revolves around a few themes. Some of the themes that the directors wanted to convey to the audience include the themes of segregation, alienation and prejudice. The film develops these three themes clearly with the victim being only one person, that is Radio. He suffers from one problem to another as the protagonist trying to prove his right of existence and importance (Perez-Pena, 2008).

He strives through thick and thin to convince people with a reason why he feels he should be accepted the way he is. He finally succeeds after a long and hard fight that is supported by his football team coach. Radio’s problems do not end there as he loses his mother later. This frustrates him even more. Although the sufferings torment him both mentally and physically, he fights on with proper care from his brother and the brother’s wife.


Henning, A., & Hiller, B. (2012). The Relationship between Reviewer Judgment and Motion Picture Success: Re-analysis and Extension. Journal of Cultural Economics, 36(3), 249-283.

Hebersky, R. (2001).It’s only A Movie!: Film and Critics in American Culture. USA: University Press of Kentucky.

Rosenberg, J. (2000). Movie Wars: How Hollywood and Media Conspire to Limit What Films We Can See. New York: Acapella Books.

Perez-Pena, R. (2008). “The Sport Whisperer, Probing Psychic Wounds”. The New York Times. Retrieved from

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IvyPanda. 2019. "“Radio” Final Film Critique." November 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/radio-final-film-critique/.


IvyPanda. (2019) '“Radio” Final Film Critique'. 25 November.

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