The well-received debut of director/co-writer Marcel Rasquin, "Hermano", while tending toward the heavy-handed, bodes nicely for his future.
This is one of those rare and paradoxical pieces in which I’ll tell you that I didn’t entirely care for a title, and encourage you to see it anyway. It depends on whether you tend to the emotional or to the cerebral. If the former, then you may well enjoy it tremendously as is (many have, obviously). If the latter, just know the following, take it in stride, and focus on the broad strokes.
Rasquin’s tale brings us two brothers brought together by circumstance (well, unusual circumstance, perhaps better said), raised by a loving and competent single mother, feeling the pull toward criminality based on their bleak barrio surroundings, and talented enough at soccer (football, I know, American audience) to have a chance at breaking out.
A familiar story, true ~ but one of those which properly told, rings mightily (think "A Better Life", or "Boyz n the Hood"). Just because we’ve seen it doesn’t mean it’s not worth telling again. And Rasquin tells it well via strong directorial presence and the great promise of newcomers Moreno and Armas.
"Hermano" just trips a bit with regard to writing, falling prey to an insufficient sense of scale in any given subplot. Heightened to the point that any alone presents a story of its own, the “sub-“ part of that term seems to have been forgotten, leaving "Hermano" with a fairly serious case of kitchen sink syndrome.
Additionally, the writers don’t let us grasp concepts for ourselves, instead seeming to feel that we need nth degree intensity or multiple exposures to catch them. I won’t cite examples because I still recommend "Hermano" and don’t want to spoil things, but suffice to say that if “A” is extremely good, it becomes the best there can be; inexperience becomes ignorance; dramatic becomes dire. Thus was "Hermano" robbed of the nuance and dimension that could have produced a story of Shakespearean proportion.
It’s easy to see why each element was desired for inclusion, but one can almost sense the index cards being pushed around during plot development, lines being added to Make Points and Establish Character (see, that’s the cerebral bent kicking in). I was reminded of Harrison Ford’s character in "Working Girl", saying of women’s business attire at the time, “They don’t dress like women. They dress like they think a man would dress if he were a woman.” One gets the feeling the writers decided what they wanted us to know and chose devices that represent the fact, rather than developing individuals, saying, “Here’s your challenge ~ go,” and showing us how that plays out.
All that said, these characters are passionate, their stories ring essentially true, if you’re the type who values the story over its telling you’ll be in great shape, and the ending delivers a knockout. Technical, granted, but there’s a good chance that in the future Rasquin will deliver the punch.
Story: Two young men raised as brothers are poised to escape their lowly surroundings and play professional soccer, when a tragedy threatens to tear them apart and destroy their futures.
Starring: Fernando Moreno, Eliú Armas
Directed by: Marcel Rasquin
Running time: 97 minutes
Official site: http://www.hermanomovie.com/
Houston release date: August 24, 2012
Tickets: Check Fandango.com or your local listings