A soccer-mad friend sat beside me in the theater, leaning over from time to time to explain what was going on in the game on the screen or point out an in-joke about the appearance of a real-life figure from the world of what everyone outside the US calls football. People like me who need such assistance will not find enough in the thin story and thinner performances to make this film a satisfying experience, but those knowledgeable enough to be able to provide those asides might find something to enjoy in the depictions of the game and the challenges faced by players on and off the field.
It’s the basic kid-with-a-dream story, stripped down not to a Rocky-style essentials but to its surface, without one spec of imagination or specificity of detail to capture our attention.
Santiago (Kuno Becker) is a talented player, but his father, an embittered Mexican immigrant, tells him his dreams are a foolish waste of time. What he wants is his own gardening company, so he takes the money Santiago has saved to buy a truck. Fortunately, the same grandmother whose tough love got him out of the local gang finds a way to get him a ticket to London where he has a chance to try out for a top team.
But Santiago is from Los Angeles and is used to playing in the sun, and his try-out on a drenched and muddy field goes badly. Given another chance, he faces opportunities and setbacks, friends and rivals and distractions — including a pretty nurse — and the challenges of failure and success — including a high-living star player. But other than a flicker of something interesting in the performance of Alessandro Nivola as a hard-partying star player there is always something distant and antiseptic about it all. This movie is the first of a trilogy, but it has already run out the clock.
Parents should know that the movie includes some mild sexual content, brief strong language, and a drug reference. A character is a partier who abuses various substances and has many groupies. There are some tense scenes and a sad death, and there is some sports-related violence.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Santiago’s father and grandmother had different ideas about his dreams. What matters most to Santiago? To Gavin? Why did Glen want to help him? Who has helped you that way and who can you help?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The History of Soccer.