The Beautiful Game: Heleno

(Brazil, 2014, 116 mins, DVD)
In Portuguese with English subtitles
CAST Rodrigo Santoro


He was the soccer player Pele idolized in the 1940s, Brazil’s best striker, a dashing, cavalier talent with movie star looks and a burning desire to win. But Heleno was also an erratic talent, plagued with psychological problems, and despised by some of his teammates. His career was brilliant, but cut brutally short. As the Uruguayan poet Eduardo Galeano put it, "He had Rudolph Valentino’s face and the temper of a mad dog. On the playing field he sparkled. One night, in a casino, he lost all his money. Another night, who knows where, he lost all his desire to live."

"José Henrique Fonseca’s handsome black-and-white, impressionistic bio-drama goes very Raging Bull-ish, to tell a piece of the story of Heleno de Freitas, a Brazilian soccer star with matinee-idol charisma. He lived wild, played hard, brought sports glory to his country, and died at the age of 39 in 1959, deranged by syphilis. Rodrigo Santoro (Paulo on Lost, Xerxes in 300, and even better, Raúl Castro in Che) is mighty matinee-idol charismatic himself in the title role, alternating between swaggering lady-killer and ravaged victim of self-destruction. B+"

Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"Powerfully acted and dazzlingly shot in heavenly black and white, Heleno is a feverish opera…. The road to ruin is blindingly beautiful." Jeanette Catsoulis, New York Times