A heartfelt and beautifully realised coming-of-age tale, Marcel Gisler’s Mario follows the eponymous young and talented football player (Max Hubacher) as he finds himself having to choose between his career and love when he becomes romantically involved with fellow teammate Leon (Aaron Altaras). Simultaneously serving as a touching romantic drama and a critical exploration of masculinity within football, Mario is a poignant work of contemporary cinema.
The foundation of the film is focused on the relationship between Mario and Leon, and thanks to two exceptionally fantastic performances from Hubacher and Altaras, there is real tangible connection and empathy felt towards the pair. Everything about their developing relationship from their playful flirting to some heartbreaking emotional outbreaks further on feels wholly natural and completely realised. Neither character is presented as a conventional flawless romantic lead; they are both flawed human beings trying to find their way in life, and the movie is all the better for this.
Much like the realistic portrayal of the leads, the situations they both find themselves in are also conveyed in a believable manner that puts into question the exclusively heteronormative way in which mainstream media presents itself alongside the inherent masculinity of football culture. In turn, the heightened plausibility only further adds force to the emotional blows struck throughout the plot. Cleverly, the script offers no answers or solutions to the questions it raises, instead opting to expose the realty of the sporting world.
Given how well the film manages to establish and develop the central relationships and conflicts throughout it’s two hour runtime, it’s unfortunate that the momentum created early on is unable to carry past the climax of the second act, at which point the plot comes to all but a complete halt during the last half hour or so. Many of the events at this point seem inconsequential compared to what comes before and offer little to the overarching themes or character development. Likewise, the huge stumble in pace detracts from a conclusion that could have come sooner.
Mario is a beautifully touching and powerfully humanised tale of love in an environment unwilling to embrace it. Courageously carried by two phenomenal leads and elegantly examining important issues, it’s unfortunate the film’s momentum is unable to last until the final whistle.
Mario is released in select cinemas on 13th July 2018.
Watch the trailer for Mario here: