Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"The film carries a message about the importance of tolerance, love and a healthy dose of silliness in the face of the darker elements of modern life." | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Critics' Week

No matter how many films you've watched in 2018, its unlikely that you'll have seen anything quite like Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt's genre (and gender) bending sharp comedy romance Diamantino. Part celebrity football satire, part skewering of modern society and with fantasy/science fiction elements, it's all wrapped up in a warm hug of a modern romantic fairy tale, complete with a pair of "ugly sisters" and true love's kiss.

Any similarities may be decried as "purely incidental" by the film's disclaimer but footballer Diamantino (Carloto Cotta) is no more than a penalty kick away from Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo in appearance, with his cut physique, diamond ear studs and near-godlike command of the game. He introduces to his world through voice-over, describing football stadiums as "new cathedrals", while explaining his mastery of the game is down to adorable gigantic pekingese - which we see helping him to score a goal.

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We quickly learn that Diamantino is an easily manipulated naif, whose twin sisters (Anabela and Margarida Moreira, bitching it up to the max) are secretly laundering his cash - a plan that the secret service believe to be his. As Diamantino falls from football grace, he simultaneously becomes aware of the plight of refugees and decides to adopt one. This is the excuse the secret service need to plant lesbian investigator Aisha (Cleo Tavares) in his house, posing as a refugee teenage boy, who begins to get wind of a second sinister plot that sees a group of right-wing EU sceptics treating Diamantino as a disposable experiment in order to instigate the Portuguese equivalent of Brexit.

No matter how outlandish the plot twists, it's the purity of Diamantino that keeps you hooked. Like a reverse-Grinch, his heart must be at least three sizes to big, even if his brain power is virtually non-existent. Cotta plays it straight all the way as an innocent abroad in a world of potential evil, his interactions with Aisha full of silly sweetness, such as when, upon taking a selfie, he tells her: "You have to make a profound face. Like a fish".

Abrantes and Schmidt keep things light and constantly inventive, but Diamantino's perpetual selflessness makes the darker satire about the creep of right-wing 'build that wall' ideology bite deep - British audiences may well want to weep at how close the 'leave' advertising is to what was actually experienced on these shores. Not quite so guileless as it might first appear, the film carries a message about the importance of tolerance, love and a healthy dose of silliness in the face of the darker elements of modern life. Best of all, it delivers on its promise of a happy ending.

Reviewed on: 19 Nov 2018
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Diamantino was once the greatest football player in Portugal. Now, in the middle of the worst crisis of his life, he decides to fill his void by adopting a refugee boy.
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Director: Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt

Writer: Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt

Starring: Joana Barrios, AbĂ­lio Bejinha, Chico Chapas

Year: 2017

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: Portugal

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