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July 9, 2016

Ronaldo (2016)
Director: Anthony Wonke

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Synopsis: A year in the life of star footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo, bookended by his Ballon d’Or triumphs in 2013 and 2014.

Review: This otherwise sterile example of the self-promoting, hagiographical sports documentary is redeemed by its inadvertent exposé of just how bland and narcissistic Cristiano Ronaldo’s life is – and how that blandness, in a sense, physically and psychologically fosters his continued excellence on the football field.

What’s perhaps most striking about Ronaldo is how startlingly ascetic his lifestyle is. He seems cocooned in his awfully dull modernist designer house on the outskirts of Madrid, and outside of actually playing football, he seems to spend most of his time tending to his preening sense of vanity through all the mirrors that line the corridors of his house or interacting with his son – unsurprisingly called Cristiano Jr – in one of the odder father-son relationships I’ve seen. There seems very little in the way of friends or girlfriends (Ronaldo comes across as remarkably sexless for someone obsessed with his appearance), and his entourage is a really selective bunch containing his mother and recovering alcoholic of a brother, plus the Dr. Frankenstein-style super agent, Jorge Mendes – who seems to model to Ronaldo the epic levels of self-belief and hubris you need to be the top in your profession.

From a football perspective, the film is a bit of damp squib: failing to get beneath the surface of its skimming through Real Madrid’s La Decima triumph or Portugal’s disaster of a 2014 World Cup campaign. Even the Messi rivalry angle feels a little bit tokenistic, though it is revealing that winning the Ballon d’Or – essentially a very minor postscript to the average football fan – is a massive, massive deal for Ronaldo and Mendes.

It’s in the strangely revealing portraits of Ronaldo’s domestic routines that this documentary has most currency. Especially in the truly bizarre scene where Ronaldo almost seems to be beckoning his son to salivate over his luxury car collection; this inane narcissism exposing the strangely unfatherly behaviour Ronaldo affects with his son (if anything, Ronaldo acts more like a feckless older brother or uncle!) (July 2016)

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