Ploughing Iowan fields for a pittance, Ray Kinsella (Costner) risks financial ruin to build a baseball diamond, convinced a voice he heard in the fields told him to do so. Soon ghosts - metaphorical and literal - from the past make their welcome way to his pitch in this tale of regaining youth and following your...erm...dreams.
Field Of Dreams concerns things that touch everybody (although men no longer enjoying their first flush of youth should find it most resonant) like the yearning for reconciliation, lost innocence and a second chance. Such are the themes of the unlikeliest fable Hollywood has devised since Jimmy Stewart befriended an angel in It's A Wonderful Life or, indeed, a six-foot rabbit in Harvey.
Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner, the best straight bat in movies today) was 18 at the end of the 60s and now, for want of a better idea, is a farmer in Iowa with a wife (the salty, vivacious Amy Madigan) and a small daughter. One day in the cornfield he hears a voice: "If you build it, he will come." Naturally, his reaction is to distrust his own sanity, as is his wife's when he decides that the "it" he must build is a baseball field, right in the middle of corn acreage they cannot afford to plough under.
Impelled by instincts he can neither deny nor understand, he builds the field and waits for what will happen next. This is the sudden appearance of baseball star "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, just as he was in 1919 when he and the rest of the Chicago White Sox baseball team were disgraced for throwing the World Series. But the quest isn't over yet: 60s writer and activist Terence Mann (James Earl Jones, a magnificent curmudgeon) is dug out of disillusioned retreat, and then he and Ray find they must then track down another former ball-player turned doctor (a bewhiskered Burt Lancaster).
That the Doc turns out to have died years before matters not; by now the idea of ghosts reclaiming their lost opportunities is comfortingly familiar. And so the story unfolds towards the healing of Ray's own big regret, a scene so evocatively played against the sun setting gold behind the corn that only the most flint-hearted will be able to restrain a sniffle.
Too idiosyncratic and witty merely to wallow in sentimentality, Field Of Dreams will surely stand as a classic update of what made Old Hollywood so magical. It's still a wonderful life.