Guest Author - Barbara Rice DeShong, PhD.
Rudo (Gael García Bernal) and Cursi (Diego Luna) are banana loaders living in a village of shacks with their close, extended Mexican family. Both are soccer players, but then so is every boy in the area. Soccer is the passion of the people and Rudo and Cursi and the best; Rudo on defense as a goalie and Cursi on offense as a kicking genius. Thus, when a slick talent agent happens into town and spies the two boys playing, and says he can take only one of the poor boys to Mexico City and sell him to a professional team, the question is, which one?
In a brief contest, Cursi wins, setting the stage for intense competition and setting up the final dilemma. Then the talent scout returns and takes Rudo. The agent signs the young men to separate teams in Mexico City. Both brothers leave their little town promising to build their long-suffering mother with a palatial home on the ocean.
In Mexico City the young men splash into a world they’ve never imagined. Dazzled by the bright lights and money, the brothers’ lives take on an unreal quality. Cursi, who longs for a singing career, throws away his fortune buying his way into cheap gigs where he flops and buying whatever his new girlfriend, a gold digger model, desires. Rudo rids himself of his success by gambling and developing a taste for cocaine. Meanwhile their sister invites them back to their village for her marriage to the local drug lord.
The movie builds pleasantly to the mystery ending. Rudo is desperately in debt and has been told he must throw the big soccer game or he will be killed. To spice up his dilemma, at this point Rudo is within one game of setting an all-time record of games for a goalie not allowing a score. He is, of course, pitted against his brother who has dropped off the starting team and will likely never play big league soccer again if he does not score when he’s called off the bench.
Will Cursi take it easy on Rudi so that he can set a record? Will Rudi sacrifice his record and therefore save his neck? Will he sacrifice the record to help his brother stay in the professional leagues? The mystery’s too rich and fun to give away. Let’s just say this much. The last scene is the brothers beaming up at their mother’s palatial home. Cursi is poor, Rudo has only one leg below the knee, and the home they are admiring was built by the drug-lord husband of their sister.