Eliu Armas and Fernando Moreno in "Hermano." (Music Box Films )
The Venezuelan film "Hermano" tells a familiar story of slum-born wishes and possible escape, but with a bristling visual energy.
Director Marcel Rasquin's debut feature, which he wrote with Rohan Jones, introduces us to soccer-playing youths Julio (Eliu Armas) — tall, tough and captain of his barrio's team — and his more withdrawn younger sib Daniel (Fernando Moreno). Adopted as a wailing baby after being abandoned in a pile of garbage, Daniel's grown into a serious-minded 16-year-old field phenom.
When a Caracas Football Club scout offers a life-changing tryout to the brothers, the trappings of their lives come into sharp focus, especially when violent tragedy befalls the family at the same time and threatens to split apart Julio and Daniel.
What exacerbates the strain is both Julio's fealty to a local criminal boss, and the shaky peace Daniel tries to keep long enough to make their professional soccer dreams come true.
Rasquin's approach is simple and kinetic, tied emotionally to the pleasures of close bonds and the anguish of goals derailed, but expansive enough visually to capture barrio life in both its claustrophobia and its communal openness. The acting, largely naturalistic, is also a plus.
"Hermano" is well-trod acreage, but there's a vitality here that's easy to appreciate.
"Hermano." No MPAA rating; in Spanish with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. At selected theaters.