Making the Grades
It's 1957 in Coalwood, West Virginia, and all roads point to the local coal mine. Even the high school principal puts more of a priority on picking coal than on getting education. But when the first spacecraft, the Russian Sputnik, flies over Coalwood, high-school student Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) catches a glimpse of the bigger world and can no longer accept his presumed future.
The only known road out of Coalwood is a football scholarship. Homer doesn't qualify for that. Instead, he chooses a new path that follows his passion: rocket building. Because this ambitious effort will require some skill in welding, science, and math, he enlists (with a lot of persuasion) the help of his friends, the mine's machinist and an unpopular student who is a math-whiz.
The townspeople think Homer is crazy, but the greatest opposition comes from his father (Chris Cooper), a supervisor and lifetime employee at the mine. His Dad was already upset with the time and money being spent on building rockets, but when Homer and his friends are accused of setting a forest fire, his father explodes. Despite the opposition, the dream won't die. With all the determination of a football wannabe, Homer tackles each new obstacle using teamwork and extra-curricular academic training.
Unfortunately, there are concerns for parents in this film. Some scenes of family disputes contain moderate profanities and may be too intense for younger children. Parents may find another reason to squirm during a needless scene when the boys make some sexual remarks about how to feel a girl's breast during a movie.
But for me, this true story contains good lessons that fly far above the bad. Through persistent effort, these boys show how incredible goals can be reached. Even more noteworthy, this rare film celebrates intellectual effort as opposed to physical. Along the way, Homer and his father discover they share a dedication to hard work. Eventually they learn to respect each other's achievements. The true story on which October Sky is based, provides great motivation to shoot for your dreams.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about October Sky.
This true story has a happy ending, with Homer Hickam achieving his dream. Would his efforts still have been worthwhile had he not reached this ultimate goal? Are you ever discouraged from trying new things because you might not realize your ultimate dream? What things still worth the risk?
Having just retired in 1998 after over 20 years of service to NASA, Homer Hickam is a real rocket scientist. For more information, check http://www.homerhickam.com/ or look for the book Rocket Boys, the autobiography upon which the film is based.