Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Review - The Year My Parents Went On Vacation

Directed by Cao Hamburger and set during a turbulent time in 1970 Brazil when the country faced a brutal dictatorship, a ten year old boy is driven to Sao Paulo by his parents and left on the doorstep of his grandfather in a jewish/italian community. The parents tell their son Mauro they are leaving on vacation and will return for the first game of the World Cup. Unbeknownst to the parents, Mauro's grandfather Motel has died, forcing a jewish neighbor to take in young Mauro for the summer while he awaits his parents return.

Young actor Michel Joelsas takes a commanding center stage in this heartfelt brazilian film. Alot is expected of Joelsas with the role and he delivers on every level. His character Mauro, is faced with alot for a boy of his age whose only desire is to watch the Brazilian National Soccer Team. He is essentially abandoned in a foreign place and a foreign culture. Being thrown into a jewish heritage he knows nothing about, their food, their drink, the religious practices, and most of all their language. The only one thing that is constant is soccer. Joelsas takes the viewer through alot of emotions and he pulls all of them off, keeping the viewer engaged in his dilema. I found myself remembering back to when I was a kid and I was fascinated with basketball in the 1980s. Everything was basketball, my posters, the cards, fantisizing that I was Magic Johnson, like Mauro did the soccer team.

The supporting cast is very strong in the film as well. Germano Haiut plays the neighbor, Shlomo, who takes in Mauro and is quite good as a respected jewish man who is stuck in his ways. Furthermore, cannot understand why he must take care of the boy. He is very abrassive with the child and the relationship that the two them develop is intriguing and very compelling. Mauro befriends a young jewish girl Hanna played by Daniela Piepszyk, who lives in the same building. Their friendship is very routed in soccer and they spend the summer together routing for Brazil in the World Cup. Piepszyk also does a great job playing the hussler in the film. Her mother owns a dress shop and she charges the local boys money for a peep show in her mother's dressing room in the shop. All of the children develop a special bonds that reminds us of our youth and the hi-jinks we got ourselves into. Talented Caio Blat rounds out the cast and he plays a friend of Mauro's father, Italo, who has kept a watchful eye out. Italo and Shlomo work together to try and locate Mauro's parents.

This film works on many levels. From the complex web of relationships that Mauro develops while in Sao Paulo, to its story of a young child thrown into a culture he has no understanding or respect of, with the backdrop of a looming dictatorship in Brazil and its implecations on Mauro, his family, and friends, and finally the 1970 World Cup. The film is filled with joy, compassion, understanding, heritage, and nationalism and all of the components come together to make a rich and moving film that can be enjoyed by anyone.