Mario

 

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A popular-toned gay romance with additional ambitious aims.

   
Mario  

This is a film likely to give pleasure to many even though it falls short of what it might have achieved. Set in Switzerland, it is the tale of two gay footballers who fall in love. The two subsidiary characters most sympathetic to their problems are both female. But, while women viewers may share that attitude, it seems fair to assume that Mario is aimed first and foremost at a gay male audience.

 

The filmmaker here is Marcel Gisler who appears to believe that no other drama on this subject has been filmed before. However, he has overlooked the well-intentioned but terribly stagey British movie The Pass (2016) which was based on a work for the theatre. Mario, in contrast, is a screen original and a work that has two distinct phases within it. The first half comes across as a sweet-hearted rather leisurely piece that introduces us to local lad Mario (Max Hubacher) with big-time ambitions in soccer and then to Leon (Aaron Altaras) newly arrived from Hamburg and a likely rival to Mario when it comes to promotion. Predictably, these two become a couple but try to conceal the relationship since it could endanger their chances in the sport. At a time when sex in movies is invariably raunchy, Mario adopts a romantic tone and puts its two good-looking leads screen centre.

 

On its own terms, the first half works well leading in time to extra drama when rumours spread by another player regarding the couple's relationship come to the fore. The second half, however, darkens the tone further as the contrasting attitudes of Mario and Leon emerge. The latter is ready to be honest about his sexuality and resents the innuendoes that build up but Mario, not out to his parents with whom he still lives and the more ambitious of the two as regards a sporting career, wants to deny everything. Indeed, he even encourages his best friend, Jenny (Jessy Moravec), to pose as his partner in order to help sustain his public image.

 

The film remains interesting but, as one rather expects, a running length of just over two hours means that the later scenes seem over-extended at times. Furthermore, while Hubacher and Altaras may look right, their acting skills are not sufficient to convey fully the anguish that becomes central to the tale. By the close a comparison with 2017's Oscar success Moonlight underlines the fact that Mario is simply not in the same class. When the drama's storyline intensifies one recognises all too clearly that Gisler's film does not deliver as it should, but by then it will have earned the goodwill of its audience.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Max Hubacher, Aaron Altaras, Jessy Moravec, Jürg Plüss, Doro Müggler, Andreas Matti, Joris Gratwohl, Beat Marti, Matthias Neukirch.

 

Dir Marcel Gisler, Pro Rudolf Santschi and Theres Scherer, Screenplay Marcel Gisler and Thomas Hess with Frederic Moriette, from an idea by Thomas Hess, Ph Sophie Maintigneux, Art Dir Kathrin Brunner, Ed Thomas Bachmann, Music Michael Duss, Christian Schlumpf and Martin Skalsky, Costumes Ina Rohlfs and Catherine Schneider.

  
Triluna Film AG/Carac Films/Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF)/Teleclub AG-Peccadillo Pictures.
124 mins. Switzerland. 2018. Rel: 13 July 2018. Cert. 18.