Mi Amigo Alexis has been released on Netflix in the USA without fanfare. Which is puzzling to me, because this is one of the best and highest-quality family-friendly soccer movies to arrive since Bend it Like Beckham. That being said, My Friend Alexis is not a comedy, not a film where you giggle along with your child while watching. It has some serious themes that you might need to discuss with your child afterwards.
The story centers on Tito (Luciano González), an 11 year old boy with such soccer talent that his father is pushing him into the footballing career he failed to achieve for himself. Dad (Daniel Muñoz) ignores Tito’s education as well as Tito’s older sister, who is the true footballer in the family. When Tito has a chance encounter with Alexis Sánchez, it turns into a relationship where every person re-examines their dreams.
What’s next for Alexis Sánchez?
Originally expected to be a biopic, the film instead incorporates Sanchez’ childhood memories as a way to show what motivated him in his career. Alexis was only available for filming in Chile for a short while, but his performance as himself is remarkable because he is so natural and likable. You actually believe that he would not get upset when his car is vandalized, his mementos misappropriated, or he is surrounded by hundreds of fans. He’s also very handsome!
As many have pointed out, it is a little too sad that this film came out just as Sanchez’ football career is suffering the repercussions of a slump at Manchester United. Now that he is 30 years old and has endured a number of recent injuries, it is hard to tell where his football career will go. But given his naturalness in front of a camera, I wouldn’t be surprised if the “Nino Maravilla” becomes another Eric Cantona in filmmaking.
Fabula accomplishes its goals
I suspect that Director Alejandro Fernandez and the award-winning producers at Fabula had to balance at least three major goals. The first might have been to capitalize on Alexis Sánchez’ international platform to showcase Chilean cinema, music, and culture. Secondly, they probably had to make Sanchez look good and satisfy his perfectionism. And thirdly, they had to make a film that met their own quality standards. I believe they accomplished all these goals to make an excellent and interesting, very well-made pelicula de fútbol.
The soccer and the child actors
Most of the child actors on set have good football skills. In Oct-2018, Fabula recruited actors via a social media campaign asking for 8-14 year olds to submit audition videos on WhatsApp. Some of these videos are included in the final film’s credits, including one by Alexis.
You might like to watch an interview of the three young protagonistas: Luciano González (Tito), Marco Baeza (young Alexis), and Dario (Tito’s best friend Chelo). My Spanish was not good enough to understand what they were saying, but it seems like they had a lot of fun during the making of the film.
The soccer in this film is very good. There is a striking visual where kids are playing a game on a small sided field composed of large, light gray square titles. Filmed from a drone, the players look like small pieces moving around a checker board, almost as if they were a video game. Cool.
Some things to consider
While I rank this as one of the top soccer films, there is one issue that keeps me from giving it a 10 and also spurs me to issue a caveat. The Dad is an angry and frustrated, largely unemployed man with a drinking problem. Dad pulls his son out of school to achieve his own goals. His obnoxious behavior at tryouts might make parents or kids wince. But his family and wife accept his problems and repeatedly forgive him. Even though he ultimately sees his daughter’s football dreams in a different light, his redemption doesn’t feel quite right. Females and children might have a problem with this unrealistic sugarcoating.
In Spanish with English sub-titles
9 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 9