Written and directed by Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt
Starring Carloto Cotta, Cleo Tavares and Anabela and Margarida Moreira
Running time: 1 hour and 36 minutes
by Benjamin Leonard, Best Boy
In ridiculousness, Diamantino lives up to its poster, but that’s not all it has to offer. Rather than just being a guns-blazing, gonzo romp, it is a biting satire with a laser-focus on a number of topics without ever really getting bogged down or too preachy about any of them. Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt have worked on a couple of shorts as a team and a number of features separately, but this is their first feature as a team.
Ostensibly, Diamantino is about the world’s greatest soccer player and his fall from grace. The titular soccer star is a beautiful, dumb and good-natured fellow for Portugal. He just happens to see giant fluffy puppies prancing in a pink mist while he plays the game. This disconnectedness seems to be his key to success. The day before the final game of the World Cup, Diamantino is out on his boat with his coach/agent/father and his two cold-hearted sisters. While trying to relax, they come upon some boats loaded down with refugees.
Diamantino is such a sweet, simple soul that he’s never imagined that anyone in the world wasn’t as prosperous and happy as he is. Witnessing the pain and sorrow of a mother who lost her son while trying to flee whatever difficult situation made her a refugee causes Diamantino to lose his blissful ignorance. The next day, during the game he sees, instead of his beloved giant fluffy puppies in the pink mist, refugees with violent waves crashing all around them. He misses the final shot and becomes a subject of ridicule all over the world.
Meanwhile, the Portuguese government is convinced he is laundering money. Two agents are following his every move, attempting to prove his guilt. In an effort to regain his happiness and make a difference in the world, Diamantino decides to leave soccer and adopt an orphaned refugee. This is the perfect way for the government agents to get closer to him. One of them (a woman) poses as a young boy that needs to be adopted in order to have a closer look at his affairs.
At the same time, Diamantino’s sisters are trying to figure out how they are going to continue their lavish lifestyle without their superstar brother hauling in the cash. They get involved with the Portuguese Ministry of Propaganda which still feels that Diamantino is the perfect symbol for strength and virility. They have a number of plans to use him to sway the upcoming elections towards jingoistic candidates and platforms. (“Make Portugal great again!” and “Vote YES! For the wall!”)
Honestly, all of this is barely even the start of all the shenanigans and intrigue. There’s secret love affairs, cloning programs, hidden cameras, murders and even the occasional recurrence of the giant fluffy puppies. It would be exhausting and pointless to try to outline the twists and turns of this plot but, clearly, you won’t likely become bored with this film. It is filled with one nonsense scenario after another and innumerable sight gags.
For example, almost everything that Diamantino owns is his own branded product. My favorite is the bed linens with his image all over it. For some reason, I can’t stop laughing at the idea of a grown man wrapped in a sheet with a picture of his own full-sized body on it, sleeping with his face mashed into a pillow with his own face looking back at him.
To that end, the production design is great. The music is fun, infectious and annoying (intentionally, I presume). The performances are all at least good with Carloto Cotta’s take on Diamantino’s naiveté perfect. I’d highly recommend this for an evening of silliness mixed with a splash of poignancy. It’s opening this Friday at the Ritz at the Bourse in Philadelphia.