At once subtle and visceral, the film never succumbs to the trap of the maudlin or tearful, offering instead with its unflinching gaze a measure of faith in the future.
J.R. JonesChicago Reader
This is quick and unpredictable storytelling, its dialogue simple but tough. Alberto Jimenez is excellent as the conscience-stricken father, whose duty to respect the law tests his relationship with his own son, and both kids, Juan Jose Ballesta and Pablo Galan, give passionate, committed performances.
V.A. MusettoNew York Post
Spanish director Achero Manas' El Bola shows how the boys' bond leads to salvation of a sort for the needy Pellet. He does so with great sensitivity, never sinking into exploitation.
Despite an abrupt ending, Mana gives us compelling, damaged characters who we want to help -- or hurt. Perhaps most important, El Bola forces us examine our personal motivations for each impulse and their consequences.
When El Bola isn't drawing cheap sentiment from the sight of a bruised and scarred little boy, Mañas raises vexing questions about how and why parents leave lasting impressions on their children, and whether good intentions really matter.