El Cinco

Per the suggestion of A Respected Former Colleague (purely referring to him that way in case he reads this and needs a laugh; hi!), I’ve decided to do a series of posts about the movies I saw at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. I have to admit I’m hesitant about this, and it’s for a very stupid, arrogant reason: I didn’t like all the films I saw. And I know that many of the films shown at the fest are trying to get picked up and distributed and enjoy happy, healthy lives. And there’s an aforementioned arrogant part of me that thinks that if I post a review and someone with power just happens to read it (hi!), I’ll have a small hand in jeopardizing their chances. Of course, critics are supposed to be honest, so in that light, I’m going to stick to what I know and write about what I saw. But I wanted to get that off my chest.

El Cinco was not one of the movies I didn’t like. Ha, double negatives. I loved this movie! I’m embarrassed to say that I saw it by happenstance; I purchased a six-ticket package to the fest that only let me see movies playing Monday-Friday before 6 p.m. So my options were limited. I had five movies set and needed a sixth; I saw “soccer” in the description and “Spanish” in the language and went for it. I was half-expecting a documentary. What I got instead was the story of a beautiful young couple.

Esteban Lamothe (who has a birthday tomorrow, just like me!) plays Patón, a gracefully aging star footballer who just can’t keep up with his barely twentysomething teammates anymore. And Julieta Zylberberg plays Ale, his wife, the brains and the beauty. Theirs is a simple tale of what to do next–and “next” is a situation presented to retiring athletes more quickly than the average Joe. When your whole life has been about sports, but then your body decides you’re done, what do you do? It’s a good question.

Patón has a manageable level of fame in his Argentinian town; people revere him, and even idolize him, but his club isn’t big enough for him to be a bona fide superstar. He’s also got a bit of a temper, so he’s not exactly Mr. Approachable. When he’s around Ale, he’s not a different man, though. He’s better. Their relationship is one of deep-set belief in each other, in partnership, in enjoying life. They’re practical at times, reckless at times, but they never drift far enough apart to make you doubt their connection. Their chemistry is really something to aspire to.

I really like that this film portrayed a couple that fights and is strengthened by those fights. Or, let’s call them disagreements. Perhaps it’s an American thing to assume they were fighting. Because, again, I never felt that these interactions threatened the integrity of their relationship. They were just part of the deal that they entered into when they said “I do” en español. Honesty is key in their marriage, and even when they’re acting immature, they’re centered enough to call the other on it. Patón, in particular, recognizes his academic shortcomings and owns up to his restlessness, and leans on Ale to help him figure out what to do about it. Their resulting plan isn’t anything special, though I still won’t spoil it here, because it’s not the point of the movie. The point is that they figured something out, something to do together.

Director Adrián Biniez did a wonderful job of capturing the details of their relationship, the asides that felt so natural that I’d be even more impressed if they were written into the script, the sidelong glances, the sighs, every bit of their emotional reactions to what was going on was captured beautifully. The movie actually had a Friday Night Lights feel to it, in a way. The viewer was like a fly on the wall in a story about a gorgeous man who poured his life into football and the gorgeous wife who supports him as he does it.

I hope many more people get to see this movie. We could all stand to learn a little from the Argentinians about relationships, and about starting over even after you’ve lived your dream.