The walls of the former Botafogo training ground close to Botafogo beach are adorned with stencils of fierce-looking players from past glory years, which seem to hark back to a simpler time, when footballers played for a love of the game rather than fame and wealth. One of those on the wall is the legendary Heleno de Freitas, a hero in the game but one who certainly enjoyed the spoils of his status in a way previously unheard of, including a stint living in Copacabana Palace surrounded by various beauties of the day. Such decadence gave way to an ignominious end and the former society darling spent his last days in a sanotorium dying of syphilis.
Like many sporting movies before it, Heleno has the potential to capture the very essence of the human tragedy - that however talented we are, however invincible we feel when we are young, nothing lasts forever. In the leading role is one of Brazil's crossover stars of recent years, Rodrigo Santos, whose matinee good looks speak of a bygone era. He's alongside the fragrant Aline Morães, who has made the difficult jump from Rio's novelas (soaps) thanks to her possession of acting talent as well as improbably-sized eyes and lips. Though the film has already won eulogies, such a treasured part of Brazil's footballing history was bound to attract controversies, and some have argued the portrayal is too negative, but as a key release in Brazilian cinema this year and a treatment of a fascinating soccer story Heleno is surely worth a look in.