A certain stigmatism pervades stories told within specific genres, with segments of an audience actively avoiding them. This is not to say that they are unimportant to a wide swath of the general audience. However, they require a certain grace and humility when approaching them, either from an active or passive experience; an excellent example of this phenomenon is Sound of Freedom from earlier this summer. As I said, these movies should be approached not with skepticism but with open arms to learn and grow from the shared experience. Therefore, it was with a certain amount of unfounded skepticism that I approached Jeff Celentano’s The Hill, opening this weekend.

The Hill is a biographic story about Rickey Hill, a baseball player from Texas, whose father, James Hill (Dennis Quaid), looks out for his family’s best interests. James wants, and in fact, demands, to be the best possible provider he can be, within the realm of being a pastor and rigid to his values. So much so that he dismisses Rickey’s talents and desires.

Rickey, played as a youngster by Jesse Berry and as a teenager by Colin Ford, has a degenerative spinal disease that traps young Rickey in leg braces. Berry imbues Rickey with a sense of wanderlust, of wanting to be a kid trapped behind the constant recitation of Psalms while desiring to play baseball. Ford expresses the character’s frustrations as a teenager, wanting to accomplish more than his body is willing to give.

In between, Angelo Pizzo’s and Scott Marshall Smith’s script, based on a story treatment by Bill Chaffin and a screenplay by Stephen Hintz and Aric Hornig, examines the impact that James’ draconian desires for his family affect not only Rickey’s life choices but his family as well. The Hills are well taken care of within their means, and James’ proclamations don’t just end with his family but apply within his congregation. I found myself smiling at the notion that a pastor in 1975 would have to tell his parishioners to not smoke or spit in his House.

James’ untenable position eventually forces the congregation to excommunicate the Hills from their parish, leaving them destitute on the side of a Texas highway. Forgive me if this following statement comes across as condescending. However, the narrative Celentano weaves give several cues to signal positive change in the Hills’ standing, leading them to a new community.

The grace and humility with which James accepts the help from a stranger leads the family to a new community and a new opportunity. Yet, it does not change James’ resolve for his family or his new congregation. Quaid’s performance throughout The Hill is one of resolve, of assuredness. James never wavers in his commitment to his family, community, and son’s desires.

Joelle Carter plays Hellen Hill, Rickey’s mother. A supportive wife of James’ efforts to provide for the family while enduring the draconian rules James sets for them. The highlight of the cast is Bonnie Bedelia’s (Die Hard) Gram. She is the voice of humanity within the film, of letting children be children, spoiling them as best she can, an excellent counterpoint to Quaid’s standoffishness.

The difficulty in fully appreciating The Hill lies within the story. There are peak elements to the film that carry it through to the conviction that matches Rickey Hill’s life. However, the story makes too many leaps in logic that befit its 126-minute run time. Yet, the visual splendor provided through cinematographer Kristopher Kimlin’s eye captivates the audience on Rickey’s journey, marked through a sequence between father and son when it finally clicks that one can share a miracle on the mound and be the word that sparks change through self-improvement in people’s lives.

I’m not preaching a miracle beyond those displayed in the story. It was impressive to see a human strive for the greatness embedded in his genes and move beyond his physical body’s boundaries. The story pivots toward an expected outcome, so there are no surprises. However, the story also uses James’ vantage point to tell Rickey’s journey by-in-large, rather than the reverse, and it gives Rickey’s journey a bit less impact than if it had strictly been told from Rickey’s vantage point.

The potentially flawed framing does not diminish Rickey’s talents or perseverance.

Along the way, Randy Houser’s Ray Clemons sees what James cannot, Bedelia’s Gram tells James what he cannot hear, and Scott Glenn as Red Murph demonstrates what James cannot accept, giving Rickey a good deal more influence in this tale than I just related. The Hill is a confluence of emotions. Of excitement, of disappointment, and ultimately of acceptance.

We all have a talent. Whether learned or memory, we all have a gift to share with the world. Whether we accept it at face value or out of rejection, we learn to appreciate the miracle that is life, The Hill examines one unique influence on baseball and on a family who, on the surface, looked as if they were suffering while all the while, were actually the wealthiest family on the face of the planet.

The Hill is certainly not for everyone. It is as flawed as it is accepting of its limitations out of a desire for greatness. As someone who was raised within a particular value set, I can’t help but thank my parents for instilling those values within me, even if I take the teachings in a different direction, such as writing this review. Not every lesson is meant to be absorbed within the moment but to be appreciated within the moment and explored throughout the rest of our lives. If there’s one thing I can say about The Hill, it is that, within its double entendre, miracles can happen.