An accomplished child-abuse drama, the feature debut of writer/director Achero Mañas scooped a bunch of Goyas (or Spanish Oscars). Pablo (Juan José Ballesta) is a withdrawn 12-year-old, nicknamed `El Bola' (the pellet) after the ball-bearing he carries around as a lucky charm. Not lucky enough to prevent him from getting beaten by his dad (Manuel Moron), though. Things change when he befriends Alfredo (Pablo Galan), who brings him into contact with a loving, bohemian family environment.
Closer in spirit to Ken Loach than Pedro Almodóvar, El Bola exercises subtlety in depicting the maltreatment endured by its central character. The story may offer few surprises but it's still credibly acted throughout, while Ballesta's straight-to-camera confession scene provides a powerful resolution.