The Year My Parents Went on Vacation

Posted: April 25, 2008

Directed by Cao Hamburger. With Michel Joelsas, Germano Haiut, Daniela Piepszyk and Liliana Castro. In Portuguese with subtitles. 1 hour, 44 mins. No MPAA rating (adult themes). Playing at: Ritz Five

Like Under the Same Moon, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation follows a sensitive boy left alone after his grandparent dies - and left hoping he can reunite with his absent mom and dad.

But where Moon, about illegal immigration to the United States, is all mush, this Brazilian entry from writer-director Cao Hamburger takes a more playful tack and delivers more poignancy - even as it describes life in 1970 Brazil, with the country under totalitarian rule - a country where leftists, real or suspected, would go missing, sometimes never to return.

Mauro (Michel Joelsas) is a soccer-obsessed 12-year-old who is deposited at his grandfather's door in a Jewish enclave of São Paulo. His parents, driving off in a VW Beetle with worried looks on their mugs, tell Mauro they will return in time for the World Cup finals. But Mauro never even sees his grandfather alive - he dies en route to the apartment - and so the boy must fend for himself, relying on the (reluctant) kindness of an old man (Germano Haiut).

Meeting street kids and a precocious girl, hobnobbing with the clientele of a diner, and following the glorious arc of soccer superstar Pelé and his team as Brazil aims for the World Cup, Mauro experiences good times and bad. Filtered through the perceptions of a bright, innocent kid, this sweet, yet unsentimental film is about growing up, losing innocence, and longing for a place, and people, to call home.

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