The Year my Parents Went on Vacation
City Lights Pictures
Now Showing at: Mariemont Theatre.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Most of us can remember films from our past about a young boy coming of age or coping with a life-changing experience through the intervention of an older mentor, be it relative, friend, or just a stranger through a twist of fate. Primary examples might be William Wellman’s Goodbye My Lady; Lasse Hallstrom’s My Life as a Dog; and Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso.
The new Brazilian film, The Year my Parents Went on Vacation, makes a valiant attempt to capture the magic of those films, even to the extent that a couple of the score’s tunes echo those in Cinema Paradiso.
The film is set in Sao Paolo in 1970, when Brazil was in political turmoil over that country’s dictator-du-jour. It was also the year that Brazil became the first three-time winner of the World Cup, with a golden team that included the legendary Pele. This juxtaposition of social skullduggery and football frenzy intertwine to seriously affect the life of 12-year-old Mauro, when his politically active parents literally leave him on his Grandfather’s doorstep while they attempt to go underground to escape persecution. As they drive away, the parents promise to return in time for the World Cup matches.
Mauro’s two passions in life are his parents and soccer. Now he faces an uncertain future as a twist of fate puts him in the care of Shlomo, an elderly Jewish gentleman who lives on the same floor in his Grandfather’s apartment building.
At this point, the screenplay falls back on the tried-and-true: Mauro is angry and bitter; he is befriended by everyone in Shlomo’s circles; he makes friends with some of the local kids, including a cute girl his age named Hannah. And other characters cross his path to add some meaning and drama to his situation.
That’s not to say that the characters and situations don’t work, but generally there’s nothing new here. It’s a bouillabaisse film, with a pinch of this and a dollop of that…the kind of stew that makes you think “I’ve had this before.”
The cast of Brazilian performers is uniformly good, with solid emoting that avoids going over-the-top or adding too much schmaltz. The direction, by first time filmmaker Cao Hamburger, is fine, and should be a springboard to bigger and better things. And you may really enjoy The Year my Parents Went on Vacation, as long as you don’t expect too much or too original.
This PG rated film in Portuguese with English subtitles is now showing at the Mariemont Theatre.