Making the Grades
To save the family farm, would you be willing to compete in a dangerous dogsled marathon and endure frigid temperatures while existing only on your mother's fruitcake? Based on a true story, Iron Will recounts the difficulties faced by Will Stoneman (Mackenzie Astin) when he had to make this choice in 1917.
After a tragic accident claims the life of his father, aspirations for college as well as financial security slip away. As mom prepares to sell their huskies, the seventeen-year-old is consumed with overwhelming grief and a sense of helplessness. Fate intervenes when the lad sees a flyer for the Carnival Derby, a dogsled race that stretches 522 miles from Winnipeg to St. Paul with a huge cash prize of ten thousand dollars. Realizing his father was preparing to enter, Will takes the leap from boyhood to manhood with steely determination, hoping to fulfill his father's dream of providing for the family. Preparing himself and his dogs to the best of his modest abilities, the unassuming team is soon train bound for Winnipeg.
When the small-town boy arrives at the opening ceremonies, he is keenly aware he is out of his league. The other contestants are older, far more experienced, and have the backing of important movers and shakers. Taking advantage of his naivet0xE9, the race's sponsor tries to prevent the boy's participation by assessing him a late registration penalty. The fee is eagerly paid by Harry Kingsley (Kevin Spacey), a jaded reporter whose only interest is finding a new angle for his newspaper. Oblivious to side betting, corruption, and hidden motives, Will is just glad to be allowed to compete...and the perilous race is on.
In a world where the competitors are even harsher than the elements, watching this youth maneuver through his incredible challenges while following his principles is a refreshing portrayal. Although there are depictions of drinking, gambling, a few swear words, and some suspenseful action likely too intense for very young children, teens and parents are sure to enjoy this inspiring story showing the triumphant power of innocence, hope, and raw willpower.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Iron Will.
Partway through the race Will is offered a large amount of money to drop out. With enough funds potentially secured to solve his financial problems was it wise of him to risk his life and continue?
Through a series of newspaper articles Will is elevated to hero status. He then feels obligated to live up to this public image. How can someone else’s expectations of us change our behavior? What happens when we fail to meet those standards?