He’s handsome, charming and very successful. Yet his temper always seems to get the best of him, putting everything he touches at risk. Sound familiar? The now-common story of a celebrity’s self-destructive behaviour is once again depicted in Heleno, a biopic about the famous Brazilian footballer Heleno de Freitas, written and directed by José Henrique Fonseca.
From the player’s rise to his inevitable fall, the movie tiptoes around several controversies in his life without prying below the surface of any of them. His reputation as a womaniser, his addiction to ether, difficult behaviour on the field and a struggle with syphilis are all dealt with using kid gloves. In the end, we’re left with little more than a string of unanswered questions.
But beyond the evasive plot, Rodrigo Santoro avoids the pitfalls of the clichéd story by bringing a a heartfelt performance to the titular role. Supporting actresses Aline Moraes and Angie Cepeda, who play Heleno’s wife and lover respectively, shine as glamorously as old Hollywood starlets, in spite of being overshadowed by Santoro.
The cast further benefits from the incredible art direction, as the black-and-white film deftly recreates the look of 1940s Copacabana. Heleno might leave a few loose ends hanging, but this is a beautiful film.
Heleno is released on DVD on 18 July 2012, with English subtitles.