From the opening shot of a deflated soccer ball next to an abandoned baby in a pile of garbage, the Venezuelan barrio in Marcel Rasquin's Hermano is a world in which soccer is king — and more importantly, the path to a potentially better life for Julio (Eliú Armas) and his adopted younger brother Daniel (Fernando Moreno). They're good enough to play soccer in the big time, particularly the wiry Daniel, but the casual violence of slum life threatens to derail that escape. It's the kind of story that has been told and retold at least as far back as the 1930s, but the dusty, sun-baked, and thoroughly masculine milieu of Hermano keeps it fascinating — it should be noted that the vulgarity is heavy by American standards, including Julio's hilarious description of a rusty trombone — and the lack of sentimentality is remarkable for a film so concerned with what it means to be a family. Hermano's determination to keep its eye on the ball (so to speak) does mean that certain plot threads are left dangling, and the final shot requires a certain leap of logic that almost feels like a cheat, but damn if the film doesn't earn it.
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