In synopsis, you’d be forgiven for thinking Mario sounds a lot like Ben A. William’s The Pass. Both interrogate homophobia in the world of professional football via the highly emotive stories of two characters; they are personal and specific yet offer wider social commentary.
While The Pass took place in a series of hotel rooms, Mario casts the net wider, placing emphasis on aspects absent from Williams’ film, such as team dynamics, internal club politics, and actual game play. Thanks to this, Mario’s style is all its own. There’s no denying the bravery of its explicit condemnation of a football club rigged to maintain secrecy and obfuscation at all costs.
Mario is particularly good on these costs; the broad canvas results in sensitive exploration not just of the impact of rampant intolerance on gay players but also on their friends and family, enabling Jessy Moravec’s standout performance as Mario’s friend Jenny. There is, however, a sense that too many priorities are being juggled; the central relationship between Mario (Max Hubacher) and Leon (Aaron Altaras) escalates largely off-screen, wrong-footing the viewer with its sudden seriousness, and Mario’s father is clichéd trope rather than character.
Elsewhere the pace is slow and introspective. Marcel Gisler’s deft direction, along with the lead performances, ensures that the boys’ initial attraction and union is conveyed with just a series of glances. Mostly, the sparse dialogue isn’t an issue, but Hubacher can be wooden when more impassioned emotion is required, and Mario and Leon’s teammates remain barely characterised with only a handful of lines between them.
Mario offers a bold and important critique of retrograde homophobia – particularly considering its release at the climax of the World Cup. Its heart may be in the right place, but the underdeveloped screenplay stumbles and limps to full time.
CAST: Max Hubacher, Aaron Altaras, Jessy Moravec
DIRECTOR: Marcel Gisler
WRITERS: Marcel Gisler, Thomas Hess, Frederic Moriette
SYNOPSIS: Two young football players get caught up between the politics of the game and the politics of love.