“The Last Match” (“La Partida”)
Young Love in Havana
As physically close to Cuba as we are, we are just now beginning to learn about the way LGBT people are treated there. Surprisingly, what we have recently heard is quite positive. However, we see in “La Partida” that for the young, it is not easy to love. Reinier is a teen hustler yet he falls in love with one of his friends from soccer. He has been driven by making money—he has a child to support, a young teenage wife and he is also caring for his wife’s grandmother but he never seems to be lucky enough to get what he wants. Yosvani, his friend, mesmerizes him and Reinier is infatuated with him. Yosvani is handsome and has a rich girlfriend who supports him. The boys fall in love and have to fight to maintain their love. It is hard for both of them—one has to work dunning people who owe money and the other sells his body on the streets.
The film looks at the intersection of love, money and sex. Ranier does what he does as strictly business and as a way to support his love and child. However, his gambling gets him trouble with a bill collector who just happens to be Yosvani. With Ranier, sex with men is strictly business and Yosvani tries very hard to convince him to run away with him.
The Spanish title, “La Partida” has many translations with one them being “The Last Match” and it is used for the title of the film to the English-speaking world. Some of the other meanings are profane and one is an anti-gay term.
Ranier has dreams that do not include prostitution. He dreams of becoming a great soccer player and rise from the poverty of the Cuban slums to become a rich and popular person. He is a good ballplayer and he desires fame and fortune that he thinks will come when he is recognized. But in the meantime…
Yosvani is getting ready to marry his girlfriend but he does ot feel worthy of her affection. However, nothing else is happening for him and this marriage may be the best thing he can do. The two men come together when Yosvani is attacked by a group of thugs who want his sneakers. Ranier comes to his aid and scares the thieves off. Little by little the two boys become close and they share a kiss during a drug frenzy caused by Ecstacy but that stolen kiss becomes something more and the two find time for intimacy. Ranier hides from his wife and Yosvani hides from his girlfriend as they experience the throes of love. However, Rainier’s ambition at work gets the best of him but money is scarce. He cannot repay a debt to Yosvani’s boss. When Yosvani refuses to enforce punishment on Ranier, the two are cast out and alone in the world. Ranier tries very hard to get a place on Cuba’s winning soccer team and Yosvani begins to sell his body and steals from his former boss in order to gain Ranier’s affection.
Antonio Hens directed this film which highlight the Cuban hustler trade and the subversive gay community which exists in a ghetto where it can protect itself from persecution. Hustlers keep the tourists busy and coming back which aids the ailing Cuban economy.