Much like Paolo Sorrentino’s latest film, Loro, Diamantino covers its rear end before it even begins. A disclaimer states there is no intended likeness to any person, living or dead, nor to any giant fluffy puppies (we’ll get into that later). But while directors Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt aren’t parodying the life of a famous ex-prime minister, their farcical political satire is taking the rise out of Cristiano Ronaldo in a wacky Portuguese film that works to its own rules.
Diamantino (Carloto Cotta – who is every inch Ronaldo) is the best and most famous footballer in the world. He’s a genius on the pitch and an icon for Portugal. Diamantino is adored by everyone bar his own Cinderella-style wicked sisters and we hear him explain that when he’s bearing down on goal he becomes lost in a pink haze that engulfs his thoughts with giant fluffy puppies. There’s plenty more of this type of surreal, kitsch imagery to follow which the directors somehow make work.
The plot is of little consequence aside from providing a platform for Abrantes and Schmidt to parody the state of politics in Portugal and abroad. As Diamantino falls from grace after missing a last minute penalty in the World Cup final (against Sweden?) they run through a laundry list of contemporary trigger-topics including nationalism, immigration, the EU (referring back to the country's own 2005 EU referendum and riffing heavily on Brexit), gender politics, the media, celebrity, Trump and more. The charmingly naive but dim-witted footballer searches for redemption while under secret investigation for money laundering at the same time as a covert government agency attempts to clone him.
All the while Diamantino narrates his own story, recalling one bizarre plot development after another. One thing that can’t be said about Abrantes and Schmidt’s film is it is uneventful. The pantomime-style characters and strange goings-on are used to reflect an increasingly preposterous world where we are forced to confront a growing number of dangers fighting for our attention. But it is a little too pleased with its own wackiness which tends to get in the way of the targets it has in its sights.
The two directors also wrote the script and the fairytale-like tone remains light largely thanks to Cotta’s wide-eyed performance. He pads around his palatial home in his model underwear oblivious to the various parties looking to deceive and manipulate him for his money and talent. Amongst the absurdity there are some good stabs of humour (the sister’s blunt swearing is a joy) while full use is made of the small budget available to the filmmakers.
What Diamantino lacks in cohesiveness it mostly makes up for with ambition. It isn’t any understatement to suggest this will certainly not be everyone’s cup of tea and will probably find more joy on digital platforms from audience’s looking to experiment, rather than putting bums on seats in cinemas. Some may find it too whimsical and eccentric, while those who will warm to it will probably appreciate its b-movie tendencies and willingness to ignore convention.
Diamantino opens in UK cinemas on May 10.