Entertainment » Movies

Mario

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Oct 30, 2018
Mario

Mario (Max Hubacher) is a star professional footballer in the junior league in a small Swiss town, and he is desperately hoping to win a place in the senior team in Germany next year. So is his pushy father, a failed footballer who is now egging on his son to fulfill the ambitions that he himself simply was not good enough for. Mario's chances of succeeding look good, until the arrival of Leon (Aaron Altaras), a new German player who is also a very talented striker, and who may just be promoted instead.

The team provides an apartment for the two young men to share. Although they are initially awkward around each other, they soon become good friends. One night Leon seeks to take that friendship to a different level when he leans in and kisses a rather startled Mario -- who reacts by quickly running away.

However, the next day when Leon apologizes for his actions, it is Mario who now makes the move on him, and they end up in bed. What initially appears to be purely sexual soon turns into something much deeper, which makes it all the more difficult to keep their new relationship a secret from their teammates and the club management. When rumors start to circulate, each of the boys are summoned with their agents by the club bosses to respond to an anonymous allegation.

Confronted with the lame "We wouldn't mind if you were gay if it weren't for the sponsors and fans" excuse, both Leon and Mario deny everything. Mario takes it one step further by enrolling Jenny (Jessy Moravec), his childhood friend, to act as his "girlfriend," which doesn't fool his teammates -- but it does convince the management, who award him the promotion along with a new apartment in Hamburg. Leon, on the other hand, refuses to play-act and, after angrily confronting the teammates about his sexuality, storms out of the club... and the town, too.

The story could have ended neatly there (especially as at 119 minutes, it is at least half an hour too long), but Gisler gives us what happens next, as the young men strive to get on with their lives separately.

Mario, desperate to hold on to his newfound fame as a star player in a major team, keeps up the pretense with Jenny, who has moved with him to Hamburg. Leon had been his first and only love, and he still needs to discover for himself if he really has made the right life choices after all.

Gisler is hardly a prolific filmmaker; there are long gaps between his output, but his films are, like this one, always worth the wait. It's an entertaining drama with some spot-on performances from the talented young cast. However, the story itself seems a little old-fashioned at times, which may be a cultural thing with Switzerland generally being regarded as rather a conservative country,

Homophobia in any walk of life is obnoxious and still completely unacceptable; attractive as this drama is, it is hardly going to help change any minds.

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.


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