Diamantino is a new Portuguese sci-fi comedy film written and directed by Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt. The film follows the top soccer star from Portugal as his career comes to a sudden end, sending him on an unusual quest to find himself again. It has played at festivals including the 2018 Cannes Critics’ Week and the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
This film’s story is unabashedly weird in many ways, although herein lies a majority of the film’s charm. If you enjoy films that bask in their bizarreness, this is sure to be one of the most enjoyable films you see all year. However, you do have to have quite a tolerance for weirdness, because it takes about half of the film’s runtime before it is able to come together. For the first half of the film, there are just a bunch of seemingly random scenes going on tied together by an unreliable and inconsistent narrator.
One of the film’s more pressing issues is that the character development is extremely underwhelming. The film’s protagonist is obviously meant to fall into the lovable goof archetype, and although he does fulfill that every once in a while, he is more often than not exhibiting only the latter of the two qualities. More should have been done to make the protagonist likable. His innocence goes a long way, but the film’s attempts at making him appear altruistic come across as insincere. The supporting characters are also very archetypal, especially the protagonist’s evil twin sisters who are particularly bland.
In terms of humor, the film has some extremely funny moments, but many of the funny moments last much longer than they probably should. A majority of the best parts, such as the fluffy puppies, are introduced early on and get a significant laugh the first time, but are used so many times throughout that they eventually lose their impact. Also not as impactful as they should be are the moments that are intended to be emotionally resonant. The most touching moments in the film are lost because the film can’t seem to find the perfect balance between humor and heart.
That being said, the film is an extremely effective satire providing commentary on social issues. The direct satire on the Brexit controversy is obvious but very funny. The part of the film that is slightly more subtle and will likely connect with American audiences more easily is the commentary it offers on the relationship between celebrity and ego. Diamantino and his sisters serve as over-the-top representations of how fame can influence people in different ways.
The acting in the film is surprisingly good because it fits the campy B-movie style of the story and filmmaking. Carloto Cotta portrays the eponymous protagonist in a way that is relentlessly enjoyable to watch. Even though the character may not be the most interestingly-written, Cotta does lend the character a ton of charisma. Anabela and Margarita Moreira play the protagonist’s evil twins, and they do so in a way that matches Cotta’s campy fun.
The film’s flaws on a technical level are extremely obvious, but they almost fit given the fact that the film isn’t meant to be taken seriously. For example, the CGI is pretty bad due to the film’s low budget. However, this adds another layer of camp to the film, because watching a soccer player interact with poorly superimposed giant puppies is pretty hilarious. There are some other humorously bad images, but those are best left unspoiled.
Overall, Diamantino was an ambitious and wacky B-movie that falls flat at times. That being said, it is undeniably very creative, so if you want to watch a unique film, look no further.
Diamantino opens in theaters on May 24.