Facing Nolan is a simple and sweet biography of famous baseball player Nolan Ryan. A cheeky, Southern-style narration opens and closes this earnest recollection of Ryan’s incredible accomplishments. At the core of this idyllic sports tale is Ryan’s relationship with his wife and high school sweetheart Ruth, and the strong family unit they raised. The documentary explores how Ryan deftly balanced his familial and professional duties.
Director Bradley Jackson skillfully interweaves past footage of games, vintage photographs, interview segments with other baseball players and Ryan’s family, and some reenactments. A playful period soundtrack including “Everybody’s Talkin'” and “The Heat is On” guides the viewer along Ryan’s journey—mostly his triumphs and the hard work it took for him to get where he is today.
Since the film is a family affair, with Nolan serving as an executive producer alongside his sons Reid and Reese, it is an aggressively positive portrait, but not too saccharine. Ryan has a deep love for the family he’s built and has had many stellar achievements, including setting 51 Major League Baseball records such as the most strikeouts, most no-hitters, and longest career that went through seven presidential administrations (LBJ to Clinton).
This uplifting documentary is crucial viewing for baseball fans, but Ryan’s awe-inspiring story has universal appeal. Anyone—even the most baseball-illiterate—can be moved and inspired by Ryan’s innate talent and dedication that made his dreams come true. Facing Nolan has a heartwarming optimism and Americana charm that is irresistible.