​We Watched Ronaldo The Movie – And It's As Polished As The Man Himself
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​We Watched Ronaldo The Movie – And It's As Polished As The Man Himself

The Ronaldo movie is a 92-minute exercise in cementing and exaggerating the Real Madrid star's larger-than-life public persona. What else did you expect?
November 4, 2015, 5:21pm

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.

In case you'd forgotten, Cristiano Ronaldo wants to go down in history as the finest footballer to have ever lived. That individualist sentiment, frequently so at odds with the nature of a team sport, is reiterated time and again in Ronaldo, a 92-minute exercise in cementing and exaggerating the Real Madrid star's larger-than-life public persona.

From the production team responsible for Amy and Senna, the film enjoys the same level of professional veneer that played a part in making those two releases so popular and marketable.

What it doesn't provide, though, is a genuine insight into the man himself. Put simply, if you're a dedicated follower of football then there's not an awful lot included here that you won't already be aware of.

In those moments when the self-congratulatory pomp takes a back seat to more intimate looks at his relationship with his mother and son things become more interesting, but just when you think genuine insight is about to be revealed the camera pans back to talk of Ballon d'Or desires and the pressures that accompany being so damn talented and successful.

There's a conflicting duality that runs throughout the film regarding that desire to be recognised as the greatest player of all time, while simultaneously abhorring the attention that comes with it. If Ronaldo really does not enjoy the attention, why would he personally sanction a self-titled film about himself?

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Perhaps the movie represented a chance to set the record straight, for the man himself to tell his own story in the absence of press and paparazzi manipulation. There are hints that this may have been the case, but to open up entirely would run the risk of destroying The Ronaldo Myth.

This may well be why those moments that hint at a conflicted, emotionally sensitive Cristiano stop before they've truly got going. As a result, his mother becomes the star of the show on a humanistic level. She reveals the incredible stress and strain that comes with parenting an icon of the world's most popular sport, and opens up about her state of mind at the time of her son's conception.

Her story is flanked by frustratingly shallow glimpses into the lives of Ronaldo's older brother and late father, both of whom suffered from alcoholism. Indeed, one of the more interesting scenes sees Ronaldo speak about how his father's problems hindered their personal relationship. Perhaps his dedication to being seen as the world's best stems from that absence of a father who could can share in his achievements and talents.

Armed with this information, the scenes involving Ronaldo and his young son alone in their Madrid home represent the most endearing moments, and it's easy to infer that the superstar doesn't want to raise a child who lacks a father as he did. Again, though, there's a hard stop before the portrayal of their relationship hits the kind emotional tone you'd hope to see.

It could be, of course, that the shallow emotional engagement is by design; the idea being that Ronaldo has developed a hardened skin and learned not to show too much emotion due to both his early relationship with his father and the preservation of his public image. Ronaldo certainly wouldn't be alone in a desire to separate his private life from that depicted in public.

If the idea is to show a man who struggles with relationships then the filmmakers have surely succeeded, but it doesn't rid you of the sense that you've learned little about the man himself once the credits roll.

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It's not all frustrating, however. One of the most interesting recurring themes is Lionel Messi, Ronaldo's eternal rival and only genuine peer. Like an inexhaustible spectre, the Argentine appears at key moments to provide a context and benchmark for Ronaldo's achievements. The film does a good job of highlighting how important Messi is to the legend of Ronaldo, and vice versa.

Without Messi, Ronaldo wouldn't be the Ronaldo he is today.

If Messi is the spectre then Jorge Mendes is the Godfather. Resplendent in mafia-grade threads and frequently depicted in his lavishly designed seaside mansion, Mendes cuts a fatherly, caring and morally virtuous figure.

It's a portrayal that stands in direct contrast to his less-than-savoury public image across the footballing world as the game's most powerful and controversial agent. Then again, it's unlikely that the film would have ever got off the ground without the agent's permission, and at times it reads as much like an advertisement for his abilities to cut deals as it does a story about Ronaldo.

It's Mendes more than anyone that acts as Ronaldo's chief cheerleader, celebrating and praising his star client at every opportunity. After a while, you can't help but see Ronaldo as a child desperate for the adoration of others. Considering his lack of a relationship with his father, this is more than understandable and in this regard there does exist some slight insight into the man.

Still, there's little doubt that the goal here is to further the Ronaldo brand as opposed to tell, in detail, the true Ronaldo story. Without question this is an enjoyable and skilfully crafted romp through the major ups and downs of a very public life. Not once are you left feeling bored or disengaged, but the whole thing leaves you with more questions than answers.

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It's all very well to leave the audience wanting more when you're a television show or a movie with upcoming sequels, but you can't apply that approach to a one-off documentary. Leaving with questions that you know aren't going to be answered any time soon causes you to feel more frustrated than catered for.

Should you be prepared to take things with a pinch of salt and accept the reality – that this is an endeavour designed to further ramp up the already blazing fervour around this most enigmatic of figures –then you'll have a great time. If you're looking for serious insight into the how and why of Ronaldo, you'll probably need to wait until he doesn't have a footballing image to worry about. Don't hold your breath on that one.

Ronaldo is released worldwide on 9 November 2015.

@robertson_john