Alice in Soccerland: Our Review of ‘Diamantino’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 27, 2019
Alice in Soccerland: Our Review of ‘Diamantino’

When world-famous soccer player Diamantino gets on the field for his native Portugal, the grass, the nets, the refs and all the other players disappear, replaced by hordes of giant fluffy puppies stampeding around through thick pink fog. It is through the puppies that Diamantino gets his all-star athletic prowess. And no, it’s not just some metaphorical mental strength tactic – this is actually what Diamantino sees, rendered in an impressive display of surreal F/X in the opening scene of the film. From this point on, Gabriel Abrantes’s and Daniel Schmidt’s loopy political satire/sci-fi-fantasy/espionage thriller just keeps getting weirder and weirder. But does any of this madness actually mean anything?

While hanging out on a yacht with his father and evil twin sisters just before the big World Cup final game, Diamantino comes across a ramshackle boat of anonymous refugees trying to come ashore to Portugal. Upon helping them and witnessing the extreme grief of a mother who lost her child on the journey, the soccer star, who has the brainpower of a ten-year old, is so emotionally crippled by this experience that he blows the final game and resigns to leave his athletic career behind. Instead, he pledges on live television to take in a refugee child and treat him like his own son.

Meanwhile, covert Portuguese agencies have been monitoring Diamantino for tax fraud, setting into motion a plan where an undercover agent is sent is as the refugee to spy on him. Meanwhile meanwhile, Diamantino is also being sold out by his twin sisters to a genetics company who plan on experimentally modifying him to become a propaganda tool for government authorities who want to mobilize the masses to vote Portugal out of the European Union.

If your head hurts from all of these convoluted plotlines, you may want to take an Aspirin, because this is just the set up for an absurdist look at the politics of modern Europe and the ongoing refugee crisis. And for a little while, it all sort of works in an amusingly ridiculous kind of way. Abrantes and Schmidt make their strange fantasia pop with unique F/X work and as Diamantino, Carloto Cotta nails the dimwitted doofus with a big heart schtick, inspiring giggles just from his perpetually confused face alone. It also contains perhaps the funniest music montage in years, perfectly scored to Donna Lewis’s ‘90s easy rock staple “I Love You Always Forever”.

Once Diamantino and his new refugee son/undercover agent start forming a real bond, however, the movie doesn’t seem to know where to go or what to actually say about any of the pertinent issues it’s been toying with, eventually climaxing hastily with a generic action thriller showdown. At a certain point, you also start to realize that the story is essentially just a revamped version of Zoolander, diminishing some of the creative originality.

The film does eventually end on a poignant note, fully embracing the queerness and gender fluid spirit coursing through the entire endeavour. It makes you wish that so much of the film leading up to that point didn’t distractingly wander away, just like Diamantino’s own attention span.

This post was written by
After his childhood dream of playing for the Mighty Ducks fell through, Mark turned his focus to the glitz and glamour of the movies. He's covered the extensive Toronto film scene for online outlets and is a filmmaker himself, currently putting the final touches on a low-budget (okay, no-budget) short film to be released in the near future. You can also find him behind the counter as product manager of Toronto's venerable film institution, Bay Street Video.
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