There are a lot of things the film does right. It’s the final 10 minutes where the film gets a lot of stuff wrong.
A week ago I ran into a young man from Venezuela. His name was Andres Abraham, a genuinely nice person. He was on his way to college in a city about an hour north where I live. He been in the U.S. for just two days, he knew nobody. I respect that kind of guts. We both had a few minutes and I’m naturally a curious person when it comes to foreign lands, so I asked him questions about his homeland. He brought up Hugo Chavez. Not me. I told him I didn’t know much about the situation, only what I was fed by news channels, so I couldn’t have a valid opinion. He told me whatever I had heard, it was worse. As he talked about his life back home he was fighting back tears. Andres told me he never wants to go back to Venezuela unless he is visiting family.
As fate would have it, I would watch a film from Venezuela this week. That film is Hermano and it tells the struggle of some of the people in that country. I couldn’t help but think of Andres the entire time I watched the film. Hermano tells the story of two young men, Julio and Daniel, who are raised as brothers and have the unfortunate task of growing up in the very dangerous slums of Caracas. They find an escape in football (soccer). Both play for the same local team and both are easily the best players. Julio is the captain of the team as he exudes a natural charisma. Daniel is the younger of the two and is probably the most gifted player on the team. Both are being scouted by a local professional team, but clearly Daniel is the one who wants it more.
Julio himself is involved with a gang that eats up a lot of his ambition. Daniel is set on getting out of the slums. Naturally this causes a rift between the brothers. An act of violence in the middle of the film causes that rift to crack even more. A person close to Julio and Daniel is killed and the brothers both have different ways on solving the issue. Daniel seems more intent on moving on from the death and concentrating on getting signed with the professional team and Julio is destined to find the killer and exact his revenge. This struggle is the primary focus of the film.
There are a lot of things the film does right. It’s the final 10 minutes where the film gets a lot of stuff wrong. For one, Hermano is a very well made film. The director, Marcel Rasquin, is a first timer. He shows a lot of promise. He has a way of showing beauty in some truly ugly places. The way he shoots the film is exquisite. At times the camera seems to be floating over the slums like a cloud. He gets the game scenes right too. This is something that is almost never done right. Hermano has them down pat.
A lot of scenes involving sports seem to happen too fast sometimes. Usually they are edited like a music video with a lot of close ups, so you cannot tell what is actually happening, causing a lot of confusion. Rasquin is smart and pulls back a lot of his shots to allow the audience to get into the games. In terms of sports movies, this was easily one of the easiest to follow.
The tone of the film set by Rasquin and his collaborators is pitch perfect. The film is delicately handled from scene to scene. The film is played off as a watered down, more ethereal version of the great Brazilian film City of God. Except instead of gang violence as the primary focus it’s football.
What really hurts the film is some of the decisions the film makes in its final act. Daniel, a character who was well written and acted for the first hour of the film does two things that are completely idiotic. The first one involves his meeting with the professional team who wants to sign him. Daniel says its either you sign my brother and I or neither of us. Personally, if I was in this situation and knew how much of a loose cannon my brother was and how great of an opportunity I had, I’d be signing that contract on the spot and getting out of barrios.
The second bad decision that happens is literally in the last minute and sinks the whole film. I can’t reveal what actually happens because it would ruin a lot of the story of the film. The decision that Daniel makes at the end of the film goes against who he was the entire time. The act wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t handled so poorly by the filmmakers. This is the only wrong step Rasquin makes the entire time of the film, but it’s enough to ruin the experience. I felt like I was stabbed in the back. Maybe the point of the story was you can be good your whole life and make one mistake that can ruin it all. It’s just in the way it’s handled that makes the whole event clumsy. It’s unfortunate too, because for 100 minutes Hermano was a well told story. It’s just a shame about that ending.