Brothers Beto (Luna) and Tato (García Bernal) toil away on a banana plantation to support their mother and (in the former’s case) a wife and kids, regularly letting off steam on the local soccer pitch. Then Batuta (Guillermo Francella), an Argentinian passing through the village and introducing himself as a football scout, sees them play and offers to make one of them a star. So the siblings subject themselves to their first decisive and, as it turns out, very divisive penalty shoot-out.
You need not like football to enjoy this entertainingly sceptical fable of sibling rivalry; not unlike the earlier collaboration between the Cuaróns and their two stars, this uses the ups and downs of a relationship to reflect on contemporary Mexican society, proffering pithy observations on such themes as machismo, celebrity, corruption, crime and so on. If that makes the movie sound too earnest, fear not: Carlos Cuarón, adept at balancing comedy and something darker, knows satire may be more eloquent than sermons. He’s helped by charismatic, pleasingly ambivalent performances by all involved, and while a later penalty sequence is needlessly prolonged, it doesn’t diminish the film’s cumulative effect. Serious fun.