You don’t need Gary Lineker and a fancy graphic to tell you there are no openly gay top-flight footballers in the world right now. The pressures that might inform the decision to keep schtum are acutely etched in ‘Mario’, a conventional but engaging Swiss-German drama that’s as engrossing as it is timely.
Golden-boy striker Mario (Max Hubacher) is the captain of a Swiss U21 team in which every player is jostling for a first-team place. These tensions are intensified with the arrival of another forward (Aaron Altaras) who is assigned digs with Mario. Of course, their initial antipathy transforms over pizza and PlayStation into attraction, then affection. Director Marcel Gisler takes his time building the connection, which pays off when their relationship is blown into the open by a jealous teammate. Here the film becomes even more absorbing, the ramifications of the relationship examined through the prism of the club, agents, family, friends and, most importantly, the couple themselves.
The themes of love versus career are well-worn, but Gisler’s attention to detail and the winning chemistry between the leads draws you into the story. It’s also a rare big-screen film that mounts football scenes credibly, eschewing slow-motion bicycle kicks for something you might see on a Saturday afternoon at Charlton. But, you know, more exciting.