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Review Endgame (2015): Nice little movie but could have been so much more!

genre: biography, drama





(While this is not really the kind of story that has real surprises or twists there are some things happening I need to mention to explain a character's action or behaviour. For some this could be considered spoilers so you have been warned. Mind you revealing these won't change your viewing experience. So no biggie. Just saying.)

Endgame basically is about a chess team from Brownsville, Texas, one of the most economically disadvantaged cities in the country who achieved success at the Texas State Chess Championship and the years after. One of the members of this chess team is a young boy called José played by by Rico Rodríguez of  Modern Family. While he is the main character and the story is inspired by true events he is not a real character. 

Carmen Marrón who is a former guidance counselor has written, directed and produced this movie. It's only her second project and for someone who apart from previous film Go For It! has no prior experience concerning film making she has done quite well. But she does make some mistakes inexperienced film makers seem to make often. One of these mistakes being unfocused and trying to tell several little stories that are left unresolved. These little stories do give the film some meat but most of them are just barely touched upon and then simply ignored. An example is the subplot about José and his best friend Dani (played by Alina Herrera). She has his back 24/7 and even starts fights with the kids who bully him. That is someone who will be your friend for life. But then one day tragedy strikes and she gets taken away with her family who are illegal immigrants. This of course is devastating for young José and we see him deal with this loss. But then there is no mention of Dani and what happened after. It would have been nice had they explored this a little further or at least had a proper dialogue about it. Upon hearing about this José's mother reacts to the news like it's nothing and angers him to no end. 

His mother (played by Justina Machado) is someone I disliked with a passion. I could not muster any sympathy for her. First of all she gives all her love to her oldest son Miguel who seems to have a future as football (I refuse to say soccer) player as he is so good that he can get a scholarship. And the little times she is paying attention to José she nags him or his on his case. Then in one of the most (sudden but predictable) tragic events this film has to offer Miguel is no more and she is even paying less attention to José. If it weren't for his abuelita (grandmother) he would have been completely neglected and ignored. The grandmother is played by Ivonne Coll Mendoza and is the sweetest person ever plus can say very dirty things. Don't worry though she does immediately pray to god right after. She is teaching him chess how she was taught by her husband who was a grandmaster. It is these chess skills that get noticed by teacher Mr. Alvarado (played by Efren Ramirez who you might know from Napoleon Dynamite) who wants to start up a chess team so that the members can get a good start in life. He is so dedicated that he puts up his own money to make it happen including his rent and beer money. Now that is dedication people! 

I think you can guess how the story plays out and it does manage to make you feel good at the end. However I had hoped to have seen more and better dynamics between mother and son. Their issues get resolved very quickly and in a way that didn't satisfy me in the least. The mother was incredibly self centered and immature plus showed favoritism towards her oldest son in a way that was unacceptable. That is something so hurtful and damaging that will have lasting effects. You can't present this situation in a film and then resolve it in a minor scene like they did. It's an issue that deserves proper attention and time. Now I do think that Carmen Marrón has the right intentions and wants to confront people with certain truths. However you need to do more than just touch upon them briefly. You need to go deeper into them and if possible try to tell people how to deal or resolve them. Film can be a very good medium to educate. When it comes to these issues you can't do that enough. Especially since it will create more understanding for people who live in disadvantaged cities like this. I prefer that over ignorance and intolerance.

So like I said this is a nice little movie that could have been so much more. But for what was present it's a pleasant watch. In the end it is a feel good story and how can you not like those.   


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