2019, NR, 96 min. Directed by Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt. Starring Carloto Cotta, Filipe Vargas, Anabela Moreira, Carla Maciel, Margarida Moreira.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Aug. 2, 2019
In Portugal, soccer is everything. So superstar striker Diamantino (Cotta) is everything to everyone – or rather, they're what they want him to be, for their own ends. His evil sisters see him as a bottomless bank account. The two spies his father hired to keep him safe see him as a path to promotion. The mad scientist trying to find out what makes him tick just wants his perfect genes. The National Front wants him to be the unwitting frontman for their version of Brexit. Yet all Diamantino wants is to see his giant dogs again. Because it used to be that, when he really played in the zone, he was surrounded by giant, adorable Pekingese, wafting through clouds of sparkling pink fluff.
In this contemporary, magical realist spin on Candide, the world is a dark and complicated place, and all Diamantino wants to do is play soccer and hang with his dad. He's been insulated from harsh reality – his first experience of the European refugee crisis is when his yacht almost crashes into a raft of starving people – and when his father, his protector, dies, everyone wants their piece from this ingenue. The real world is no less ludicrous than his big dog fantasy, with characters running complicated scams that somehow always bounce off the soccer star's big heart.
Like The Jerk without its acid edge, Cotta has the bravery to play Diamantino as a complete and lovable idiot (at one point it's revealed that his genius probably comes from the fact that he only uses 10% of his brain, and that seems like an overestimation). While wild machinations play out around him, he blunders pleasantly and kindly through life – all the while providing his own commentary as an omniscient, nonjudgmental narrator. Writer/directors Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt aren't arguing for the merits of idiocy, but for the dangers of overthinking and duplicity. Sweet, wild, and openhearted, Diamantino is as charming as its muddle-headed protagonist. He may be football's version of a bear of very little brain, but he's the only one with a clear thought in his head.