When Newcastle United soccer star Santiago Munez is offered a spot with Real Madrid, he accepts, but the move - accompanied by big money and fame - tests his ties and loyalties to family, friends and business acquaintances.
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Santiago's father, Hernan Munez, smuggled his penniless Mexican family over the US border to seek a better, albeit modest future in L.A. Eldest son Santiago dreams of more, like native Angelinos, then joining Hernan's gardening firm. His change arrives when a British ex-pro spots him as an exceptional soccer natural and promises he can arrange a real British talent scout to check him out. Although that falls trough and dad forbids it, Santiago accepts grandma's savings to try out with English premier league club Newcastle. Despite his asthma, he gets in and befriends the freshly transferred, desperately undisciplined bad boy star scorer, party animal Gavin Harris, who becomes his bothersome house-mate, a recipe for trouble and yet each's salvation. Written by
Yes, this is another sports biography that offers a stage on which to play out the drama of the possibilities of dreams of the disenfranchised to become a reality. There are many, many films like this one and will doubtless be more: something there is about the 'team spirit' in the identity crisis of whether or not the poor (financially) new guy will be able to make the physical grade that draws large audiences. It is a formula and it often works despite weak structure and production values.
In the case of GOAL! THE DREAM BEGINS the viewer can put aside the doubts as to whether the film can make it on its own: this little low profile movie is well written (Mike Jefferies's story adapted for the screen by Adrian Butchart), well directed by Danny Cannon who knows well how to integrate live sports scenes into the drama, and consistently well acted by a troop of excellent actors, beginning with the very vibrant, handsome, and charismatic Kuno Becker ('Lucia, Lucia', 'Imagining Argentina', 'Once Upon a Wedding', 'English as a Second Language'), a 28 year old Mexican actor with an assured future in the lead role of Santiago. The supporting roles are classy contributions by the gifted Alessandro Nivola ('The Sisters', 'Junebug', 'The Clearing', 'Laurel Canyon', 'Love's Labour's Lost', 'Mansfield Park' etc), the very beautiful Anna Friel, Stephen Dillane, Marcel Iures, Tony Plana, Miriam Colon to mention only a few.
The story is secondary: as a child devotee of soccer Santiago immigrates illegally into the US with his family, grows up in Los Angeles working as a gardener, a dishwasher and other menial tasks while he consumes his spare time with developing his unique talents for soccer. Despite his father's insistence that he remain with the family business of gardening, Santiago is discovered by a scout on vacation from England, a bond develops and soon Santiago is off to Newcastle to pursue his dream of being a professional soccer player. The rest is pretty obvious - the ups and downs of an asthmatic kid competing in the wild world of sports. The star of the moment is Alessandro Nivola and despite the differences in their goals and social life they become friends who help each other in tender ways. There is of course a love interest, telephone calls and encouragement form Santiago's grandmother, adjustments to life in the UK -all altering the road toward Santiago's eventually attained goal.
The film is a bit lengthy (two hours) for the content, but then we understand this is the first of a trilogy, so get used to the story and the characters as they all remain constant for the next two installments. Whatever reservations you may have about sitting through another predictable sports movie just relax them: Kuno Becker alone is worth the time invested in this very fine little film. Grady Harp
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