THE GOALKEEPER

★★

BOLIVIAN SEX TRAFFICKING AND A FALLEN SOCCER GREAT

SYDNEY LATIN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
By Jess Fenton
24th September 2019

Former champion goalkeeper turned alcoholic bus driver Jorge Rivera (Fernando Arze) is fighting to save his dying son. Unable to pay for his son’s much-needed surgery Jorge turns to human trafficking to get the money he so desperately needs. But when Jorge’s circumstances change, his conscience gets the better of him and he tries to undo what he's done with horrible and unforeseen consequences.

For English-speaking audiences, this film is called ‘The Goalkeeper’, for the Spanish speakers it’s ‘Muralla’ a.k.a. ‘The Wall’ - the nickname Jorge garners during his soccer days. Either way, the soccer backstory has zero consequence on this tale except to perhaps muster some more sympathy in a "the higher they climb the further they fall" kind of way. Or perhaps it’s to raise interest in a film about a very important subject for the largely soccer-devoted part of the world - the covering vegetables in cheese approach to filmmaking and social education.

'THE GOALKEEPER' TRAILER

‘The Goalkeeper’ is a dark and powerful story told in a not-so-cohesive way. Filmmaker Gory Patiño uses a few different and exciting techniques such as actors wearing Steadycams during chase sequences, but never really commits to these flashes of style so they end up being jarring - and not in a good way - when they occasionally pop up. There's a real opportunity with this story to be gritty and raw, but Patiño never really seems to have the guts to pull it off.

Sex and drug trafficking films are not rare but the perspective Patiño showcases here is; it’s just that the payoff isn't what the story deserves. It’s not a satisfactory conclusion for character or plot, and there are too many random elements that detract from what could have been a great film. There is also a solid religious stream throughout the film, but for the uninitiated to Bolivia, this just adds to the confusion.

There's a real opportunity with this story to be gritty and raw but Patiño never seems to have the guts to really pull it off.

When I found out this was Bolivia's entry for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar from this past year, I was surprised. There are so many incredible foreign language films on offer, I couldn’t quite find the magic and brilliance that allowed ‘The Goalkeeper’ the make the shortlist. There’s too much plot to make this a character piece, and too much character to make it plot-driven. Nor is it balanced. This film only has two acts, needing a better middle to really hook the audience. And when the grim second half comes along, it’s difficult to follow it through and be okay with what Patiño has presented. I can see what he was going for, but it just needed more care to get there.

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