Anelka: Misunderstood (2020)

I never followed Nicolas Anelka’s career with a lot of attention, but he’s the kind of player who was always on your radar if you cared about football during the 2000s. His reluctance to be a superstar is supposed to explain the drama he brought wherever he played, but a documentary that sides so definitively with its subject is bound to feel unsatisfying in the end.

The first half of the movie is a well structured presentation/self-portrait of Anelka the player and Anelka the man, a complicated character who can, indeed, be easily judged as flippant and arrogant. The second half becomes mired in director Eric Hannezo’s efforts to stick to his “misunderstood” subtitle, at the cost of sacrificing the documentary’s chronology. That’s why more controversial events of Anelka’s career are brought forward, time spent at various clubs is conspicuously compressed or wholly ignored, and the story concludes on France’s scandalous 2010 representation at the World Cup, with Anelka in the limelight.

In many ways, it feels like Anelka is a version of Ibrahimovic that was disliked. The documentary offers little insight as to why that might be, beyond pointing fingers at the media and managers, with some of the better insights coming from former Arsenal honcho, Arsene Wenger. So while there are definitely interesting facets to Hannezo’s docu, the numerous exculpations make for a less than engaging watch, leaving too much unsaid – or unasked. 6/10