This movie is suitably named, because it really is about two brothers. Itís
a great story: a little boy named Julio (Eliu Armas) is walking down the
street with his Mom (Marcela Giron). He hears a noise that he thinks is the
wail of a cat, but itís actually a baby crying in a trash pile. Mom recoils
in shock, then takes a couple of steps forward to see if thereís any obvious
injury, then grabs her sonís hand and quickly runs away, because she knows
what will happen if she picks up the baby. And sure enough, she canít turn
her back for long. She holds the baby, and now itís hers.
They name him Daniel, but call him Gato, because he sounded just like a cat
when he cried as a baby. Fast forward 16 years, and Gato and Julio are very
close friends. Despite the fact that they grow up in a Venezuelan slum named
La Ceniza, Mom earns a little money making cakes. They get by. Julio, grown
now, tries to take on some of the responsibility the only way he knows how:
heís joined a gang, and they run some drugs. Mom tries not to notice where
the help with the rent money is coming from. They both try to focus on Gato,
who is an extraordinarily gifted athlete. He has a chance to be something
special as a soccer player, but he canít afford to succumb to ďthe lifeĒ
of a gang member if heís going to concentrate on his sports. Julio helps him
by playing on the same neighborhood team, and practicing with him constantly.
Their rivalry is intense, but it is obvious that they love each other, and
would do anything for each other.
And that, it turns out, is the fatal flaw in their relationship. To say any
more about the plot would give away too much. Suffice it to say that there are
many dynamics present, about conflicting loyalties, and setting goals, and
valuing loved ones, and balancing it all with having a dream, and the price
you pay for pursuing it.
All of these actors are unknowns to North American audiences, but thatís
part of what makes them feel genuine. This isnít just famous Hollywood stars
playing the parts of obscure characters, these are faces weíve never seen
before, and may not again. Director Marcel Rasquin not only shows us a
realistic-looking portrait of modern slum living, complete with roving gangs
of terrorist boys, he is unafraid to include the kind of language---and topics
of conversation---you would expect to find in a rough neighborhood like this
one. The attitude of the girls and boys toward each other, and their own
sexuality, is a beguiling subplot, as is the political machinations of both
street gangs and professional sports recruiters.
ďHermanoĒ just feels real. And we want so badly to root for all the
underdogs here to somehow find a way to the light of day.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephenís Presbyterian Church, Irving,