‘The 5’ (‘El 5 de Talleres’): Rotterdam Review

Courtesy of Films Boutique
Attractively low-key, compassionate character study from a Berlin award-winning director

Aging soccer players are people, too

On the face of it, a story about a soccer player gracelessly fading into the anonymity of life away from the field lacks the appeal of, say, a story about an aging boxer pulling himself one last time into the ring. But The Five, precisely because it sidesteps all the sentimentality and bombast its storyline could have brought with it, is vastly appealing. More a quiet tale about unsteady personal growth and the quiet triumphs of marriage over adversity, this is carefully-observed, well-played and engrossing item, much like Adrian Biniez’s first feature, Gigante -- the surprise winner of three awards at the 2009 Berlin festival. This follow-up may have been a long time reaching the goal mouth, but it still deserves to score at festivals.

Paton Bonassiole (Esteban Lamothe, best known to international festival viewers for his leading role in Santiago Mitre’s The Student and Natalia Smirnoff's The Lock Charmer) plays no. 5 for Talleres, a regional Argentinian side. It’s a job that requires full commitment but which Paton has to supplement with work as a fumigator. After committing a foul typical of his physical style, he’s handed an eight-match ban. At 35, surrounded by the younger and hungrier, he starts to contemplate retirement from the game.

Paton’s emotional development was apparently arrested when soccer took over his life, and now he’s something of a man-child, ill-equipped for the world despite the unstinting support of his wife Ale (Julieta Zylberberg, Lamothe’s real-life partner), who weans him off his Play Station. Paton tells Ale that he’ll retire and she starts making plans for the future, but he can’t quite bring himself to tell his team mates, or his coach, Donato (Nestor Guzzini, from Mr Kaplan) just yet.

Not much happens: a series of situations are presented which allow the viewer to gauge the challenges which Paton is encountering in his return to the real world. This mainly involves going back to school -- he struggles with the math -- and finding a job. Thankfully Biniez refuses to enter into the mawkishness which such a subject invites: Paton's last game, for example, is delivered not as an emotional climax but as a careful study of Paton’s face as he watches the game after being substituted for the last time.

Paton’s slightly brutish, slightly comic features should not perhaps be as capable of nuance as they are, but Lamothe charges them with all the confusion and uncertainty involved in the character’s emerging discovery of a new inner life, as for example when he’s watching a kid pull some fancy bass guitar riffs in a music shop. “I’ll never be able to do that,” says Paton’s face, and you feel it’s true.

He learns, for example, that his violence on the field is of no use to him in real life, whether he’s being taunted by the fan of a rival team or in one potent scene where he forgets where his car is in a public car park: he’s not bright or articulate (“I love you, you’re cool”). But Biniez’s compassionate script ensures that he’s inarticulate and dumb in ways we can all understand.

The many scenes of Paton and Ale’s day-to-day are done with a careful eye on the emotionally real, and are persuasively shot through with, one presumes, the actors' true affection for one another. Zylberberg is attractively zippy in her role as Paton’s wife and, unofficially, teacher, mother and shrink. This central tandem is supplemented by a series of fine secondary performances, not least that of Guzzini.

Production companies: Mutante Cine, Morocha Films, Pandora Films, Petit Film
Cast: Esteban Lamothe, Julieta Zylberberg, Nestor Guzzini, Matías Castelli, Alfonso Tort, Luis Martinez
Director, screenwriter: Adrian Biniez
Producers: Fernando Epstein, Agustina Chiarino, Gonzalo Rodriguez Bubis
Director of photography: Guillermo Nieto
Production designer: Gonzalo Delgado
Editor: Fernando Epstein
Composer: Adrian Biniez, Sebastian del Muro
Casting director:
Sales: Films Boutique
No rating, 92 minutes

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