Friday, August 24, 2012

Marcel Rasquin's HERMANO: brotherhood, futbol, life & death in one swell melodrama

If the opening of HERMANO -- the sound of a baby crying and what follows -- doesn't grab you immediately, you probably shouldn't bother with this exceptionally skilled piece of Latin American melodrama, the first full-length narrative from young Venezuelan filmmaker Marcel Rasquin. This beginning is at once a huge cliche, but one that is filmed with such immediacy and acted with such feeling and specificity that -- boom -- you're hooked.

The award-winning Señor Rasquin, shown at left, has been able in this sturdy little movie to give us life -- in all its complicated beauty and terror -- in the barrios of Venezuela. He shows us (with very little "telling") via his complicated, intertwined plot, how family, sport, drugs and crime are inextricably connected, to the point where, it seems, you can't choose one or two of these without the rest tagging along.

Likewise the feelings the movie engenders, both in its characters and us viewers. These are complicated, too, never more so than in a series of ugly incidents, as one bad thing leads to the next and the next and finally to a kind of mini-holocaust that is simply horrific and all too believable. Drugs, murder, betrayal; help, love, sacrifice -- they're all on display here, often even within the same person at various times.

The story is that of two brothers -- related by chance, love and time rather than by blood -- and their mother: a wonderful family of the kind that we should all be lucky enough to experience.

Both brothers love futbol above all else (except family): Julio, the old, bigger and brawnier (gorgeous newcomer Eliú Armas, above, right) is a stronger but less talented player than the younger Daniel (Fernando Moreno, above, left), but both play together so well that Daniel insists that their duo not be broken up -- even when he is recruited by the Caracas Futbol Club.

Events are important to this movie, but they never trump character-- which, in everyone we see, including the drug lord, is complicated. (Even he proves to have some decency, along with his own understanding of familial responsibility.)

The finale, when it arrives is as surprising, moving and -- yes -- as complicated as all that has come before. Rasquin has captured life here, using melodrama as his genre, and in doing so has made a simply splendid little movie.

Hermano, from Music Box Films and running 97 minutes, opens today, all across the country. Click here and then click on THEATERS (just below the film's title) to see all currently scheduled playdates with cities and theaters.

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