Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two brothers and two fateful penalty shots

Rudo y Cursi (2009, Mexico/USA, Carlos Cuarón)

Ah. The beautiful game. It unites and can equally divide.

Two brothers, one a goal keeper and the other a striker. Mortal enemies on the field because of their opposing roles. One’s happiness depends on the other’s misery -- if a striker scores, then he is the hero yet if the goalkeeper blocks the shot, then the goalie comes out on top. An agent, Batuta (Guillermo Francella), is impressed with both brothers but he can only pick one, so he leaves it up to the brothers to decide who gets selected. Beto (Diego Luna), the goalkeeper, opts for a penalty shot to decide their fates.

As the two brothers run towards the goal, Beto indicates to Tato (Gael García Bernal) where he should shoot the ball.

“Shoot to the right”

“Let me block it. Shoot to the right.”


Tato steps up and sends the ball perfectly to his right while his brother dives the other way. Batuta is impressed and asks Tato to meet him the next day. But Beto is upset.

“I said aim right! Why’d you shoot the other way?”

“I aimed right!”

“I meant the other right!”

“What other right?”

“My right, asshole!”

“You should have said to aim that way!”

The rivalry that was already present between the brothers intensifies. Tato takes a step towards healing that rivalry. After Tato makes it big, he forces Batuta to give his brother a chance. Sure enough, Beto is given his chance and manages to make his mark. However, the two brothers are plagued with problems off the field -- Tato throws his riches away on a fine looking gold digger named Maya while Beto gambles everything away.

Oddly, the brothers handle their off-field problems differently. While Beto’s gambling debt puts his life in danger, he still manages to shine on the field, keeping clean-sheet after clean-sheet. On the other hand, Tato’s goals dry up completely and he reaches breaking point when he learns that Maya is cheating on him.

Tato is on the verge of being sent to the second division and has one more game to salvage his career, while Beto is given one more chance to pay off his debts. Both brother’s get their chance to turn their lives around in the same game when they square off against each other.

It is clear how fate will decide the outcome.

A penalty shot. If a penalty shot kick-started their soccer careers, then it is appropriate that the two brothers face off again from 12 yards to decide the outcome of the rest of their lives.

Rudo y Cursi may feel like a Hollywood film in its treatment but the film redeems itself in the penalty shot near the end where the ironic fates of soccer and life in general are respected. The ending can only be written by someone who understands that, in soccer, games can end just as they start.

Note: The calm and soothing narration provided by the character of Batuta evoke the sentiments of Eduardo Galeano from Soccer in Sun and Shadow where Galeano poetically conveyed the beauty of the game.

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