Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

A Spanish language film about two brothers who are both trying to improve their impoverished lives by becoming professional footballers may sound a lot like Carlos Cuarón's Rudo And Cursi. But this Venezuelan movie about two teenagers who live in the slums of La Ceniza is an altogether more gritty affair, concerned as much with the passion of playing the game of life as with playing football, and the nature of brotherhood, both in the filial and metaphorical sense.

Little Julio (Eliu Armas) finds Daniel (Fernando Moreno) among the dustbins, mistaking his keening cries for those of the cat he is desperate for his mum (Marcela Girón) to get him. Unable to leave the baby on the street, she takes him in and raises him as her own. A decade or so later and the brothers are incredibly close despite their differences in both attitude and physique. The older brother Julio is muscular and rangy, likes drinking and girls and constantly teases the younger "Cat" for his soft-hearted ways. Daniel is an altogether more thoughtful and shy teenager, easy to smile but lacking the bravado of his brother. He takes Julio's playful criticism in the spirt it is intended, however, and the pair of them make a formidable partnership off - and, particularly, on - the football field.

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Just as it seems opportunity may have knocked with them both being offered a trial with the professional team in Caracas, fate intervenes in a way that begins with a moment of tragedy that could easily snowball into more. With secrets threatening to upset the brotherly bond and Julio seeking answers from his more dangerous 'brothers' in the local street gang, the question becomes not so much whether they will make it to the big time but whether they will make it out of the runtime alive.

Debut director Marcel Rasquin - working from a script he co-wrote with Rohan Jones - may use some of the familiar elements of 'underdogs try to make it big' sports films as the backdrop for his story but this is first and foremost an absorbing, character-driven drama. There's no doubt that the gangland figures represented here are dangerous, but they are also community benefactors. Rasquin takes his time to establish Julio and Daniel's relationship, with the easy banter between them striking just the right note of teenage posturing. Both the boys are sympathetic and the chemistry the actors develop early on pays off when things take a turn for darker territory.

The footballing action is also presented energetically and naturalistically and, because of the strong dynamic between the brothers, we care deeply about their fate. While a rather sweet subplot involving the pregnancy of one of Daniel's friends never quite gathers as much momentum as you wish it would, Rasquin and Jones avoid cliche to deliver an ending that hits home as hard as an unexpected football to the solar plexus.

Reviewed on: 15 Mar 2012
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Two brothers try to escape the crime-ridden slums by trying out for a national football team.
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Director: Marcel Rasquin

Writer: Rohan Jones, Marcel Rasquin

Starring: Eliú Armas, Beto Benites, Gonzalo Cubero, Marcela Girón, Fernando Moreno, Gabriel Rojas, Alí Rondon

Year: 2010

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Venezuela


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