‘Love Means Zero’ (2017) proves an interesting psychological portrait of an extremely unusual man

by Martin Hafer

I do not know a lot about tennis nor do I care much for the sport.  So, the fact that I recommend this documentary indicates that it has something more to watch.

The film consists of Nick Bolletierri talking about his career as one of the top tennis coaches in the world.  What’s so surprising about this is that often the film isn’t especially complementary about the guy…and yet it was made with the full cooperation of Bolletierri AND he knew that folks disliked him and his methods.

Why?  Because Bolletierri appears to be a consummate narcissist…and any attention is a good thing in his eyes.  And, like a narcissist, he has little regard for those around him as they mostly are there to meet his needs…and he often refers to himself in the third person!  At one point, he even said he cannot remember the names of his ex-wives…all eight of them.

In addition to Bolletierri who talked almost non-stop and showing little serious regret for his career mistakes or those he hurt, the filmmaker (Jason Kohn) interviews many of Bolletierri’s ex-students as well as a few others…all there to help explain who they felt Bolletierri is and what they think of him and his training methods. Together, these all create an interesting portrait of the man…so interesting and compelling that you cannot help but be fascinated by the film.

For me, the downside of this film isn’t necessarily that Kohn made any mistake.  But with my background as a mental health therapist, I would have loved learning more about Bolletierri apart from his job…that is if there is much to him beyond the court.  Overall, a film that surprised me as I was never bored…and I marveled that Bolletierri was apparently happy with the documentary even thought it clearly did not portray him in the best light.

Martin’s Grade: A-