Music Box Films // 2010 // 97 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard // December 26th, 2012
Two Brothers. One Dream.
"When we play together, it's the best time of my life."
En route to a birthday party, three-year-old Julio (Eliu Armas) and his mother stumble upon a baby who has been abandoned. Though poor, they take the child in, name him Daniel (Fernando Moreno), and raise him as their own.
Sixteen years later, Daniel and Julio are the star players for their local football (or soccer, if you prefer) team. Daniel is a mercurial talent, able to change a game with a single moment of dazzling skill, while Julio boasts a commanding presence which, allied to his technical abilities, has earned him the team's captaincy. Word on the brothers' talents soon spreads, earning them both a shot of being signed by Caracas Football Club, the Venezuelan city's biggest team.
However, life in the barrios is harsh, and dreams do not put food on the table. To help his family, Julio works for a local crime boss, leading him down an increasingly violent path. When an act of violence results in the death of a loved one, the once-inseparable brothers are torn apart.
Compared to baseball and boxing, which are the subject of a great many outstanding films, football appears to be the poor sporting relation when it comes to the movies. Despite being a lover of the beautiful game myself, I can count the number of good films it has inspired on a couple of fingers. As such, I went in to Hermano (meaning brother) with my expectations at something of a low, only to be taken aback by the emotional impact of director Macel Rasquin and writing partner Rohan Jones' film.
Though lacking subtlety, Hermano succeeds by virtue of its characters who, though they may border on being classed as stereotypes, are blessed with a touch of humanity that makes empathizing with them comes as naturally as you could wish. The film's two young leads, Fernando Moreno and Eliu Armas, are both outstanding as brothers Daniel and Julio, and the way their relationship becomes fractured is heartbreaking.
Despite their being no doubt that the love the two brothers have for each other is mutual, younger brother Daniel is driven by a desire to save Julio from what he sees as a destructive lifestyle. Though blessed with an unerring talent for the game, Julio is driven by the realities of life, and thus has no time for dreams. Already acting as an enforcer for a local crime boss, Julio sees his future in organized crime rather than professional football. Daniel, on the other hand, has hope that he and his brother can escape "the life,," putting everything on the line when scouts from a local team offer the brothers a chance at earning a professional contract.
Daniel is not blind to the realities of life in the barrio, and Rasquin is not shy of showing it. In a terrifying sequence, Daniel is held up at knife point by three boys no older than eleven, who demand he hand over his football boots or risk having his throat slit. The scene provides a perfect example of the contrast in the way each brother views their existence. For Daniel, such an incident further fuels his desire to escape the barrio, while for Julio it is simply another indiscretion to be avenged. When tragedy befalls the brothers, each finds his resolve strengthened further, which in turn inadvertently pushes them further apart.
It's to director Marcel Rasquin's great credit that the finale of Hermano proves to be so effective, despite it being inevitable that there will be no happy ending here. Indeed, the film's final moments are arguably its strongest, as all the hopes and rage that define the two brothers comes to a head in a single life-changing moment.
Hermano is being released on DVD by Music Box Films. The standard def 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is sharp, with natural colors. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is clear, and frequently bursts into life during the numerous football matches. Though unspectacular, the included audio commentary and interview -- both by director Marcel Rasquin -- present an interesting insight into the film's production.
Hermano is a frequently beautiful film. So many images linger in the mind long after the movie has come to an end: a young Julio holding the hand of the infant Daniel, or the two boys, now teenagers, playing a game of one-on-one, whilst discussing their growing interest in the opposite sex. Such beauty, when juxtaposed against the severity of their day-to-day lives, results in an emotionally powerful film that deserves to be embraced by a wider audience -- regardless of whether they follow football or not.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Music Box Films
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated