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El Bola, a 12 year old boy a.k.a. "Pellet" is a 12 year old boy raised in a violent and sordid environment. Embarrassed by his family life, he avoids becoming close to classmates. The arrival of a new boy at school changes his attitude towards his classmates, and friendship. The heart of the story is the change in El Bola's life, at almost all levels, after befriending this new classmate. Written by
Child abuse is not one of the things that film makers love to tackle. This practice seems to be universal, yet little about is seen. Acero Manas, the director of this movie that deals with this subject, is about one of the few that has come forward to make a case for the young children that are physically abused by a brutish parent.
El Bola is a teen ager we meet playing a dangerous game at the railroad tracks near Madrid. It's a game where two opponents jump to pick up something from the track as a suburban train is about to pass by. Young Pablo is nicknamed "The Pellet" because of the ball he keeps with him as a token for good luck.
Pablo's home life is marked by unhappiness and grief caused by the tragic death of a sibling. The sullen parents have to struggle tending the sick, and elderly mother of Mariano, the father. Pablo is made to help with the old lady's bath, something a small boy should not be called to do.
Into Pablo's life comes Alfredo, who joins the class, evidently at the middle of the school term. Pablo sees a kind of normal pal in the new arrival and seeks the boy to be with. That meets with the father's wrath, as he considers the new friend as trash because Alfredo's father, Jose, is a tattoo artist. In reality, Alfredo comes from a good home with caring parents. Pablo sees a normal way of life in his friend's house. The friendship brings the worst in Mariano who beats the young man harder to the point that he needs medical attention.
"El Bola" is a film that depicts the abuse openly and it hits the viewer as a low punch to the stomach. Nothing justifies the way Pablo is beaten senselessly by a father that should be made accountable for what he is doing to his son; the images one sees are revolting. Director Manas makes his point in showing what an animal the old man is by taking all his frustrations on Pablo.
The acting is good in general. Juan Jose Balleste plays Pablo with ease for a young actor who seems to be a natural. Pablo Galan is Alfredo, the true friend. Alberto Jimenez portrays Jose, and Manuel Moron makes a brutish Mariano believable.
Achero Manas asks a lot from his audience. Although child abuse is a disgusting practice, it goes on, probably much more than one realizes. This is a crude film that doesn't offer any happy solution to the problem, or how to avoid it and it's an eye opener as to how the action of a man, that shouldn't have had children, and will scar the young son for life.
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