If I’m being completely honest, I sat down for this movie and almost immediately considered walking out once the English subtitles came on. I thought to myself, “Oh, shit. This isn’t one of those boring foreign films, is it?” Thankfully, through the work of co-directors Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt, Diamantino turned out to be one of the most thought-provoking, mind-bending movies I have ever seen. Warning — there will be major spoilers in this article: I couldn’t help but dive deep.
The film starts out with a monologue from Diamantino himself, a world-renowned Portuguese soccer star clearly modeled after the beloved Cristiano Ronaldo. As the scene is set on the field of the World Cup finals, everything seems set for a Portuguese victory; the grass is stunningly green, the crowd is roaring and all the humongous, fluffy puppies roaming around are happier than ever. Right away, it is clear that this is not your average foreign film.
Diamantino’s success seems to be facilitated by these adorable, physical manifestations of his child-like innocence, of which he is gradually stripped as the film progresses. In the span of two hours, Diamantino faces political debates, gender dysphoria and death.
His naiveté regarding politics, gender and basically anything other than soccer serves as his curse. Used primarily as a figurehead for the Portuguese government to mold to their liking, clueless Diamantino represents every uninformed citizen that directors Abrantes and Schmidt urge their viewers to avoid becoming. At one point, Diamantino proudly advises that “building a wall” is the best course of action for Portugal to halt immigration. A collective chuckle coursed through the audience.
Next, while Diamantino’s two twin sisters and father are introduced, their mother is nowhere to be found. What the family lacks in womanhood, however, is provided in excess by Diamantino’s terrifying sisters. The materialistic, homophobic pair embodied every diabolical antagonist, doubled in strength. Every synchronized, taunting movement they made brought to mind an image of The Shining’s Grady Twins. Most of the film’s plot revolves around the manipulation and destruction of Diamantino at the hands of his relentless sisters.
This implicit, one-sided trust between family members speaks volumes about how blood relatives are not always the best source of happiness. In a tearful revelation, Diamantino decides to adopt a refugee to raise as his son, seeking a paternal figure in himself following the death of his own father.
His naive heart remains uncorrupted throughout the film, even as he discovers that his “son” is actually a lesbian government spy attempting to charge him with money laundering. Diamantino’s innocence and overly trusting personality mark his downfall once again.
Meanwhile, Diamantino’s sisters begin enrolling him in a series of experiments in exchange for money, watching as he experiences the traumatizing effects of their manipulation. As Diamantino’s body grows more and more feminine, his hypermasculine ideologies remain present, but also substantiate his conflict over his gender identity.
As the movie wraps up, Diamantino discovers love for the first time through a tearful, sensual experience with the woman posing as his son. The intimacy in this scene draws its power from both familial love (from father to son) as well as romantic love (from woman to woman), which was shocking, yet understandable. There is a certain purity and trust between the two lovers by the end, which was refreshing given the circumstances that brought them together in the first place.
All in all, Diamantino succeeds as a long, fantastic descent into chaos that happens so gradually it just feels right somehow.
Stephanie Tan is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.