DMovies - Your platform for thought-provoking cinema


Absurdist comedy from Portugal mocks football, celebrity culture, gender identity and more, with a very likeable Cristiano Ronaldo surrogate at the heart of the story - now available on VoD

Diamantino (Carloto Cotta) is the greatest football player in the world. He’s an artist on the pitch. When he gets the ball, time slows down, and giant puppies appear. He’s also one of the most brainless characters since Mr Bean. Diamantino, a broad, brilliant Portuguese comedy from Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt, presents an awakening by a figure who has not once needed to think about events beyond the pitch, when his easy life comes into contact with refugees, drone surveillance, populism and nationalism.

If that sounds potentially didactic, fear not, because Diamantino is more of a snapshot of contemporary ideas and concerns, in the mould of an Austin Powers or Happy Madison gross out comedy. That’s the immense strength of this film: cycling through genres and styles as Abrantes and Schmidt see fit. From one minute to the next, it can veer from spy territory into sci-fi, political satire, tender romance, or something else. For one montage of Diamantino’s growing relationship with his adopted son the film suddenly adopts Terrence Malick-like cinematography and a track from The Tree of Life (2011) soundtrack plays.

It’s that free-form, Richard Lester energy that lets Diamantino get away with a nonsense plot set in a world slightly adjacent to our own. Diamantino, played with vacant joy by Cotta, is a clear Cristiano Ronaldo surrogate, though it’s not sure how far the parallel goes. Ronaldo is currently under investigation on rape allegations for a 2009 incident. The virginal Diamantino is no monster. He’s a such an empty vessel as to just let everyone in his life walk over him and mold him into whatever image they need, form his manipulative twin sisters to the Portuguese National Front.

Diamantiano is some sort of Prince Myshkin (the happy-go-lucky protagonist from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot) for the Fifa: set, sweet, honest, trying to be good, but adrift in a corrupt world that has no patience for his sort. It’s also fun watching this impossibly shredded man feast on Nutella, waffles and spray cream throughout the film, a secret diet that works wonders for him.

It all kicks into gear when he adopts a young boy, who’s really a female secret agent pretending to be a Mozambican refugee, and who’s carrying on her affair with another agent who has to pretend to be a nun – it’s that kind of movie. Through the plot’s circumstances, Diamantino and Aisha each end up assuming physical aspects of the other gender. This quietly becomes a striking narrative about gender queer identity, where Diamantino discovers he can fulfil desires he didn’t even know he had.

The relationship that builds between Diamantino and Aisha has a sexual undercurrent that the movie just rolls with. There’s not enough time to wonder about morality with any of this because because Abrantes and Schmidt aren’t using their style to do more than its all just so much fun, so whether or not it means anything is quite beside the point. It builds to this kitch b-movie finale, which is absurd but bursts into a gorgeous final scene of lushious dream imagery. The clear vision of this furiously funny, accessible and over-the-top movie needs a big UK release, where its send-up of football culture, Brexit and celebrity is sorely needed.

Diamantino showed at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, when this piece was originally written. On BFI Player in March (2023). Also available on other platforms.

By Ben Flanagan - 28-01-2019

Ben’s a Bristol-based critic and podcaster who’s trying to watch and read everything, possibly at the expense of human interaction, definitely at the expense of his own sanity. Having graduated fr...

DMovies Poll

Are the Oscars dirty enough for DMovies?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Most Read

Forget Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and the [Read More...]
Just a few years back, finding a film [Read More...]
A lot of British people would rather forget [Read More...]
Sexual diversity is at the very heart of [Read More...]
Pigs might fly. And so Brexit might happen. [Read More...]
Films quotes are very powerful not just because [Read More...]

Read More


Marcel Gisler

Alasdair Bayman - 27-03-2018

When Leon joins Swiss-based BSC Young Boys, Mario and him unexpectedly fall in love with one another. Fighting for the same spot in the first team, they're on and off-field relationship becomes emotionally and professionally attached - now also available on VoD [Read More...]

The Pass

Ben A. Williams

Victor Fraga - 17-03-2016

A super-energetic Russell Tovey will both enrapture and repel you, in a very convincing movie about football, homosexuality and feigned masculinity [Read More...]

Early Man

Nick Park

Victor Fraga - 24-01-2018

Sweet, engrossing and utterly British: stop frame animation about passion for football is fun and universal enough for anyone to watch - on Netflix on August 20th (also available on other platforms) [Read More...]