There have been countless movies made about star athletes that have revolutionized certain sports and most of them have such a phenomenal life story that they deserve to have their life captured on film. Unfortunately, ‘Heleno’ which captures some of the life of one of Brazil’s top soccer players, Heleno de Freitas, doesn’t fall under this category, as it’s tragic yet unextraordinary story. The interesting part of the tale comes into seeing how fame, money, stupidity and pressure can lead someone down a disastrous path. This is not a story about the sport itself, but about the biography of one of the best soccer players to have ever existed, if that sparks your curiosity this is one to watch on DVD.
In the form of flashbacks we get to see Heleno (Rodrigo Santoro) at the height of his career and his life in the 1940’s, where he often finds himself in a love triangle with Silvia (Aline Moraes) and Diamantina (Angie Cepeda). The film switches back and forth from his present to his past showing us how this troubled man dealt with everything fame and fortune brought him, along with his poor decisions in life.
José Henrique Fonseca gives us a film that is all shot in black and white and this is a rare thing to experience nowadays, it’s refreshing and beautiful. It gives us a small glimpse of how Rio must have been in this era, with its blissful beaches. As the title suggest the film mainly rotates around Heleno and Santoro does a fantastic job portraying this arrogant, hotheaded soccer player. Santoro with out a doubt shows skills here; he is almost unrecognizable in some of the scenes. He easily portrays the highs and the lows, giving the public a reason to watch this film, making me a fan of his and wanting to see grander roles for him. This is a film worth seeing him in, unlike ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’, where he plays JLo’s love interest.
Moraes is stunning and she gives us some balance, although she has very few chances to show us her acting skills, but she breaks through a bit at the end. Cepeda, the Colombian actress has more weight than Moraes and she uses her sensuality to show how exhausting and frustrating it’s to love this man. Unfortunately, we don’t get much more about these ladies lives, as that’s not a focus of the story.
Heleno was one of the first athletes to get paid an obscene amount of money; the movie doesn’t show in any way what his talent must have been like, it only focuses on what this talent gave him. Apparently Heleno wasn’t someone likeable, he was arrogant, wasn’t’ a team player, had a temper, and basically believed himself to be a god. All of this makes us feel little sympathy for him, so we are taken into a tragic, depressing journey that many might not want to take.
Aesthetically the movie is pleasing, beginning with the black and white format, continuing with the location and gorgeous looking cast. The issue is the story itself, it doesn’t capture the pressure that drove this man mad, it leaves unanswered questions about his childhood as well as some gaps within the story; it doesn’t make us feel compassion for Heleno and leaves us depressed, but I appreciate that it shows that in real life not everything has a happy ending; but it fails to show us why this man became a myth and a legend.