Heleno de Freitas (portrayed by Rodrigo Santoro) was a soccer icon in Rio de Janeiro during the 1940s, before his playboy lifestyle, temper and hubris led to a lonely end. Pele became the star that Heleno could have been.
Sounds like a great setup for a sports biography, or the soccer-version of Raging Bull, but if you want info about Heleno’s fabled soccer career, you’ll have to visit Wikipedia. If you just want to see his self-destruction, you’re in luck.
The sometimes-gorgeous black and white film starts with Heleno’s later years and flashes back and forward and back again with musings on his love triangles and temper tantrums.
There is something powerful in this film about the story of a man whose life was ruined by his passion for a World Cup title that would never be his (WWII caused the cancellation of the 1942 and 1946 World Cups during his prime) — but I never really cared enough about the title character. The creators would have been wiser to introduce us to the soccer star before his downfall so we’d be more invested in the outcome.
Simply put: Heleno de Freitas never attained the glory he sought, nor does the film about him.
Award potential: The buzz on this film could translate to Best Foreign Film, but I wouldn’t count on it.
The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.