THE LAST MATCH (LA PARTIDA)
Dir.: Antonio Hens
Cast: Milton Garcia, Reinier Diaz, Louis Alberto Garcia, Mirta Ibarra
Cuba/Spain 2013, 94 min.
In a contemporary Havana (even though the film was actually shot in Puerto Rico), two young men are fighting in their very different ways for economic survival and sexual identity: Yosvani is working for his future father-in-law, a loan shark and black marketer, as an enforcer. He does not seem to be much in love with his future bride, even kissing her seems to be an effort. On a rundown football pitch he meets Reinier, a star player, who supports his mother, wife and baby as a rent boy, mainly for wealthy Spanish men, who visit the city as sex tourists. At the beginning, it seems clear that Reinier is heterosexual, he tells one of his clients angrily that he is not a ‘faggot’. Yosvani on the other hand is certainly dreaming of boys, seeing the way he looks at them, but he is too uncertain of his budding homosexual awakening. But somehow Yosvani finds the courage to declare his love for Reinier, but leaving ‘the closet’ has dramatic effects for him: He steals money from his employer, originally for Reinier to pay his debts to the loan shark, but than Yosvani goes a step further – he wants to elope with Reinier, who has just started training with the national youth team.
THE LAST MATCH works well before the young men get together. The narrative is often hilarious, like in one scene, when Reinier’s mother is playing up to the clients of her son, in the hope to make a good impression, so he gets more work. Equally, the relationship between Yosvani and his girl friend is full of little details of mutual misunderstanding, which make one smile. But after the young men fall in love, the film deteriorates into a mixture of thriller and bad melodrama. As long as the social aspects are the driving force of the narrative, we can believe in the characters, but unfortunately it does not work as a tragic love story. Everything becomes contrived and the original ideas, which carried the film for so long, are replaced by stilted clichés, making the end torrid and simply unbelievable.
The main actors are by far the strongest aspect of this production, they are lively and their enthusiasm makes them carry the film, until the script lets them down. The camera is not so much adventurous, it is driving the point of the narrative (poverty and alienation) home in a very didactic way, creating an unsubtle world of opposites without being convincing (like the luxury hotel for the Spanish tourists and the beach front, where the young boys ply their sex trade). Less overtness would have been more in this case. But whilst the film suffers from its horrendous ending, one should not forget the original inspiring ideas, which carried it for so long. AS
THE LAST MATCH SCREENED AS PART OF THE BFI FLARE 2014