Soccer players are modern-day demigods. They’re loved and revered all around the world. The opening images of Diamantino remind us that contemporary stadiums are all but 21st-century cathedrals, housing some of the most sublime art around. That’s how we meet the titular character, a Cristiano Ronaldo-like player who’s the best in all the world and who fronts the Portugal national team at the World Cup. Unburdened by politics at first, he starts losing his soccer skills after seeing a group of refugees floating by his expensive yacht. That’s what leads him to miss an easy penalty shot at the World Cup final (costing Portugal the win) and eventually adopting a refugee boy he hopes to raise as his own.
But such a synopsis only scratches the surface of this dizzying political fable. Directors Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt turn Diamantino into a dreamy queer thriller that ends up involving lesbian undercover agents, hermaphroditic hormones, a crazed cloning scientist, evil twin sisters, and a whole lot of Brexit-inspired propaganda. With surreal sequences that take us into Diamantino’s head and a sensibility that’s equal parts Almodóvar and Gattaca, this is a film like no other. Which is why we’ve singled out five of its most bonkers parts that should have you eager to see how they all come together. Check them out below.
Diamantino screened as part of the 56th New York Film Festival.
Diamantino's Fluffy Puppies
The key to Diamantino’s soccer skills? His child-like approach to life. This is how he explains why he’s so good on the field: “Everything faded away. It was only me in the field. And the fluffy puppies.” Surrounded by pink fog, the soccer player always sees himself playing among giant puppies that somehow help him stay focused. But what happens when they start to disappear?
Custom-Made Pillow Cases and Sheets
Playing a dumb himbo of a soccer player, Carloto Cotta nails the vacant look of a guy who’s never thought of anything beyond winning. He’s so unself-conscious that the fact that he owns pillow cases and sheets with his face on them isn’t so much an example of his vanity as it is a sign of his playful nature. (But also, if you looked like Cotta, who spends much of the film shirtless and/or in just white briefs, wouldn’t you adorn your house with your own face?)
“Make Portugal Great Again”
Unbeknownst to him, Diamantino is eventually roped into Portugal’s propaganda machine (his sisters, as it turns out, are just out to make as much money off their brother as they can). That includes shooting commercials about making “Making Portugal Great Again,” exiting the European Union, and even building a wall. Who said topical films couldn’t also be surreal comedic thrillers?
Oh yeah, if all the above hasn’t convinced you that Diamantino is worth watching, know that a key plot point hinges on the government of Portugal’s ability to clone their soccer superstar: what better way, after all, to keep up nationalistic moral than having an all-star team that’ll win the World Cup and keep the population happy about whatever else is going on in the country? During the cloning process a scientist pumps him full of chemicals that eventually cause him to grow breasts.
Unlikely Love Affair
Above all, as it turns out, Diamantino is a love story. Sure, it ends up involving a soccer player pumped full of hormones that are altering his body (yes, really) and an undercover lesbian agent posing as a refugee boy… but at this point, are you surprised?