How to Succeed at Losing popped up at the top of my Amazon Prime feed. I decided to watch it even though it didn’t look like a soccer movie. It turns out that not only is this a cute futbol film, I really enjoyed it for its refreshing presentation of life and relationships and the fine performances by the cast.
While watching the movie, I thought I wouldn’t bother to review it, because who would ever watch this film I hadn’t even heard of and had come across so serendipitously. But, my husband, who watched it with me and also enjoyed it, asked me where the film was made. Since my Spanish is too poor to discern accents, I didn’t know. From the high tech office locale, I thought maybe Spain or Mexico. But then I scrolled through the credits and saw it was from Colombia. So I got curious about the production and the star, and I did a little research.
When I saw that the the trailer had 5 million views, I decided I better write this review. 🙂
In the Story (spoiler alert!)
Miguel (Andres Sandoval) is an ambitious hard-charging tech executive with no interest in humanity. On the verge of closing a big deal, he is arrested and then wrongfully convicted of money laundering and fraud. His wealthy fiancé dumps him, and after serving his prison term, he is broke and returns to the barrio to live with his mom.
Eventually Miguel reconnects with his childhood friends, a bunch of aimless but happy buddies who enjoy life. Their team, the Western Blue, has been playing in the same 5-aside futsal league for 10 years without winning a game. With his corporate-speak, Miguel spurs them to be ambitious like him, and he sets a goal of winning the league.
Miguel takes a job in a convenience store and settles in to the barrio life he had left behind. He learns the value of family and friends, who accept him as he is despite having been in prison. He also realizes that by making winning so important, he has caused the buddies to lose their joy and their friendship.
In the end, though Miguel has an opportunity to return to the big time, he realizes it is more important to celebrate people, their lives, the game, the joy when the hapless GK does a scorpion kick, and even the losing.
The futbol connection
The Spanish title Perder es ganar un poco, means “To lose is to win a little” and comes from a famous quote by Colombia’s most famous coach, Francisco Maturana. You can read a little about him in my review of Goles en contra . But prior to watching this comedy, I did not know Maturana was, like MLB’s Yogi Berra, famous for famous quotes.
The soccer in the film is a bit silly, and in interviews, the actors admitted they were not very good footballers, and it was difficult to capture shots where they didn’t look so bad. If this is true, I would say that Director Rodrigo Triana did a good job in portraying the game with comedic touches along with the enthusiasm of the Western Blue fans. Writer-Producer Dago Garcia has created several futbol films, including Penalty Kick, so obviously experience helps.
I really enjoyed this film, maybe because I am in Silicon Valley and feel that the technology that grew from this area is backfiring on society today. The English title of How to Succeed at Losing is taken from the final soliloquy, but it is a little bit off, because in English it implies that someone would want to keep losing over and over again. The real point is to learn from one’s mistakes, be a better person, and be kind. If Silicon Valley had promoted those ideas over win at all costs, where would the world be today?
“…the winning spirit I was preaching about was … the highest demonstration of human selfishness. There’s no winner without a loser.
… Celebrating defeat is an act of kindness. The biggest proof that we can understand each other. We can develop koinonia [fellowship] with ourselves. The thing that best defines us as a human race. That’s why I’m convinced this is how to succeed at losing.”Miguel’s soliloquy at the end of the film
Anyhow, enjoy Perder es ganar un poco (How to Succeed at Losing ) for its laughs, some warm fuzzies, and the endearing actors. Andres Sandoval and María Elisa Camargo (the girl he left behind) are both a joy to watch. Jaqueline Arenal as Miguel’s mother (who is sleeping with his boyhood buddy) is also fun.
8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8