Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Goal! The Dream Begins (2005)

Goal! The Dream BeginsYes, 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, September 06

Slickly made and featuring a terrifically involving performance from its lead man Kuno Becker, Goal is the epitome of a your rags-to-riches fairy tale, a truly romanticized ode to improbable dreams. Thankfully, the direction and performances are good enough to get us through the progressively hackneyed storyline and a screenplay that seems intent to offer up almost every single cliché in the book.

Illegally crossing into America as a child, Santiago Muñez, grows up in the barrio of East Los Angeles, sure of only one thing his indelible love of soccer and that one day he wants to do something with his talent. He supports himself by working as a kitchen hand in a Chinese restaurant and as a gardener for his blue-collar dad, Hernan (Tony Plana) who tells him to stop dreaming and focus on supporting his family.

Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane) a part-time talent scout and a former championship footballer with contacts in U.K. soccer world spots Santiago playing and manages to persuade Erik Dornhelm (Marcel Iures), the German manager of Newcastle United, to give Santiago a tryout if he comes to the U.K.

With the help of his kindly grandmother (Miriam Colon), who tells him "to follow his dream," Santiago arrives in London, takes the train north and turns up unannounced on Glen's doorstep. Now in the cold and rainy Northeast England, Santiago has a month to prove himself worthy of playing alongside the cocky playboy David Beckham-like star Gavin Harris (Alessandro Nivola).

Apart from the obviously clichéd look of the film Los Angeles is filmed in shades of burnt out orange and the UK is constantly awash in rainy washed-out blue the poor Santiago is faced with many hurdles and indeed looks like an exotic looking fish out of water as he fights to stay on the reserve soccer team and achieve his inevitable path towards football glory.

The drama comes from the fact that he keeps mucking up. He's not used to playing in the rain and mud and there's the problem with his asthma that he keeps secret from Dornhelm and the attractive team nurse (Anna Friel) whom he has a crush on. He's on the team and then he's off the team, then there's a tragedy at home which forces him to rethink his priorities, and then he's faced with the inevitable moral choice of being an upright young man rather than party with the irresponsible Gavin.

The stereotypical characters are all here the conceited and uncaring agent, the kindly grandma, the love-interest nurse, the cheering coach, the nasty team member, the truculent father, the quietly supportive kid brother. The film starts off very strong the best scenes are those set in Los Angeles but the story steadily begins to hinge on contrived coincidences and eventually starts to look like one long training session.

Becker is the main reason to see this film he's an actor with a big future, a charming, ruggedly fine-looking presence, and even though his playing scenes are clearly doubled, we get a strong feel for the character both on and off the pitch.

Of course, we do get caught up in it all as the film surges to its astonishingly predicable conclusion, which mainly tugs at the heartstrings because this fine cast has managed to earn our sympathy. Perhaps the next two installments of this story yes, there's a Goal 2 and 3 soon to be released! will generate a bit more invention and creativity and finally make this franchise of Santiago's journey, a story that we can truly root for. Mike Leonard October 06.

Buy Goal! The Dream Begins (2005) Now

I was really impressed by this movie. It's extremely well done, acted and shooted and in less than two hours successfully displays the full range of emotions, dreams, aspirations and problems that we can face throughout our whole lives.

The movie tells us the story of Santiago, a young mexican guy living in L.A. who has a wonderful natural talent for playing soccer.

His life seems to be like that of many unlucky immigrants, despite the efforts of his father to provide a better living thanks to hard work.

Nonetheless the chance of pursuing his own football dreams become true when he is spotted by an English gentleman who was a football talent scout years earlier. This leads to a conflict with his father, who is concerned about the risks of "dreaming" and wasting his "real" chances for obtaining a safe and honourable life, but the love for football is too strong and the young guy succeeds to leave for England and have a trial with the Newcastle United team.

Here many things happen, and a broad set of emotions and different situations are portrayed very effectively: the problems of getting used to a different environment, love, lust, illness, frienship, death, etc. but I don't want to spoil your surprise in watching this movie, so I'd stop here in describing its actual contents, you should just know that, on the brink of being unsuccesful and going back home as a loser, Santiago's inner strenght is, at end, able to turn things around and win all the adversities, making his dream come true.

A beautiful modern story, which all football/soccer fans will love but which surely deserves to be watched by anyone since its contents go far beyond football itself.

Highly recommended.

Read Best Reviews of Goal! The Dream Begins (2005) Here

Great soccer movie for anyone that loves the game.

Very realistic. You get caught up in the passion of the fans.

An emotional story woven in the excitement of English Premier League football. Worth seeing twice, or maybe 3 times.

2 thumbs up

Want Goal! The Dream Begins (2005) Discount?

I first saw Kuno Becker onscreen in the film "Lucia, Lucia" where he held his own with the incomparable Cecelia Roth.

In "Goal" Becker comes into his own career-wise. He plays an illegal Mexican alien, Santiago Munez living in Los Angeles who gets the rare opportunity to try out for the Newcastle United English Football team by way of a few outlandish and not so outlandish plot machinations though the central theme of following your dreams despite whatever obstacles life or your family present to obstruct you. We've been here before but we've never been here before with the charismatic Kuno Becker.

Becker is the real reason to see "Goal" and his arrival on the international film scene is on par with that of any important actor in the last few years. What is special about Becker is his seeming lack of attitude and supposed entitlement that so many of today's crop of young actors possess.

Becker's Santiago is committed to his family, intelligent, wise, career-minded and generally a good guy. Of course, all of this can be attributed in part to the script but most of the success of this character and of this film can be placed on Becker's young shoulders. Becker imbues Santiago with a heartfelt sunny-ness and positivity that is infectious as well as emotionally open and available.

"Goal: The Dream Begins" is not an earth shaking film per se but it is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Let's hope that Becker keeps his head screwed on tight, hires good management and continues to act in only films that he feels are important...i.e...have something to say.

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