›› The Last Match - La Partida
a film by Antonio Hens.
2013 | 94 mins | Spain - Cuba.
starring: Milton García as Yosvani, Reinier Díaz as Reinier and with the participation of: Luis Alberto García / Silvano, Mirtha Ibarra / Teresa, Toni Cantó / Juan, Beatriz Méndez / Gema, Jenifer Rodríguez / Lyudmila, Saray Vargas / Magela and Carlos Enrique Almirante as Rubén.
Adapted Synopsis: "Set against the backdrop of a repressive Cuban society, Reinier makes ends meet by working nights as a sexy rent boy, whilst spending his days playing football with his mates. It's on the field where he meets and falls in love with Yosvani. Already in relationships with women, they meet in secret on rooftops for nights of passion. But as their feelings for each other grow stronger, so do the obstacles that threaten to tear them apart."
Doing what you must to survive is the name of the game in this well-played slice of Cuban life from co-writer and director Antonio Hens of Clandestinos and the short that is Doors Cut Down, fame. And here he wastes no time in setting his cinematic stage, as we witness pretty boy Reinier sell his body to wealthy tourist Juan so as to support his wife and child, all in the willing knowledge of his live-in mother-in-law from hell. Conversely, Yosvani appears to have it all, having a life of relative ease as the future son-in-law of local black marketeer, Silvano. Both men are hetero to the world, if not to themselves, (Reinier is strictly a top-for-rent), that is until their love of football brings them together and in more ways, than one.
A gritty examination of love of the star-crossed variety, in The Last Match.
In short, this is a film that strikingly juxtaposes the impoverished reality of life for many in Cuba and notably the black market for foreign goods therein, with thoughts of a better life, one where your love of football could secure you fame and fortune, should the national talent scouts arrive at your door. And when they come knocking, it's an opportunity that Reinier seizes with both legs, spending time on the professional pitch at the expense of his day, or rather night job. A state of affairs that hasn't gone unnoticed by either Yosvani; nor more alarmingly, Silvano.
And that's the problem with this work, for with mounting debts having to be paid back - one way or another, Luis Alberto García's menacing turn as the low-life styled Don of the neighbourhood signals that and believe me this is no spoiler, things are not going to turn out well for one of our boys. No surprise then that their love is of the star-crossed variety. But knowing that it's beautifully played, with Reinier Díaz, previously seen in Sebastián Miló's uncompromising short film Camionero, but here as his namesake and Milton García as Yosvani wonderfully capturing the sexual chemistry of a love that is ever passionate; never explicit.
True, the closing scene may bother some, that of a prolonged "always on the run" sequence and yes, the dramatic scene beforehand is notably devoid of what should come naturally between the two lovers, at this point - you'll know what's missing. Only such is testament as to how well Hens' has understood the macho culture of Cuban society, that of a world where being openly gay is far from easy and this film is achingly honest, as a result. Times are changing however, as the release of this feature is indicative of, packed as-it-is with more buffed-to-perfection footballers than what you can shake a waxing strip at. And whilst this is a sexy, romantic, if ultimately tragic work, it's equally a gritty examination of life in the slums of Havana and that of the hope, if not the eternal dream for a better future. And it's brilliantly executed.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - bare-arsed cheek.
Overall - file under ... 4 stars.