Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
THE YEAR MY PARENTS WENT ON VACATION MOVIE REVIEW
(O Ano Em Que Meus Pai Sairam De Ferias)
Directed by: Cao Hamburger
Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes
Release date: January 15, 2008
Genre: Art/Foreign, Comedy and Drama
Distributor: City Lights Pictures
MPAA Rating: Not rated
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation takes place through the eyes of 12 year old Mauro (Michel Joelsas). As the film begins, Mauro is living with his Jewish father Daniel (Eduardo Moreira) and his Christian mother Bia (Simone Spoladore) during the authoritarian military regime of 1970's Sao Paulo, Brazil. Mauro's enthusiasm is focused on the World Soccer Games and he is unaware of the politics and economic changes surrounding him which included the evolution of a national policy of repression. This time period in Brazil also involved the torture of dissidents who hoped for democracy and to overthrow the civilian Goulart government.
Mauro is told by his parents that they must leave their home, and that he will stay with his grandfather Motel (Paulo Autran) the local barber in the Jewish and Italian community of Bom Retiro. Mauro's understanding is that his parents are taking a vacation. The truth of the matter is that his parents are on the run from military authorities who are in pursuit of all people resisting the government.
When his parents leave him at the doorsteps of his grandfather and drive off, Mauro soon finds out his grandfather has died a day earlier. With nowhere to go in this Yiddish speaking community, he is taken in by Shlomo (Germano Hait) who is his deceased grandfather's next door neighbor. This, at first, is an odd relationship because Shlomo is a elderly religious man and Mauro is a pre-teen soccer enthusiast who does not observe Jewish traditions. As the two become acquainted with one another, Mauro feels alienated. This new world Mauro entered is radically different from where he was from and he feels despair that he doesn't know about this new culture he is now immersed in.
However, as the World Cup Soccer Games approach, Shlomo and Mauro find a common ground. And as Shlomo takes care of Mauro, so does the community. Mauro meets a young girl named Hanna (Daniela Piepszyk) who teaches him about the fun and games of the streets and they form a bond of friendship. Hanna's character is a breath of fresh air in this film and the chemistry was great between these two young actors. As desperation sets in further and Mauro's world is turned upside down with the thought his parents may never return for him, the subplot of the soccer games proves to be an effective escape mechanism for him.
The genuine performances of the actors in The Year My Parents Went on Vacation add to the films' accurate portrayal of this era. The realistic scenes focusing on student unrest and protests contribute to the authenticity of the film's coverage of Brazil's prospects and hopes for democracy. Michel Joelsas' performance was enhanced by the fact this 12 year old actor was actually born in Sao Paulo with a Jewish father and a converted Catholic mother. Michel portrayed the emotional role of Mauro with a sensitivity that displayed a great deal of professionalism for his age. I was also extremely impressed by the talented and charismatic Daniela Piepszyk, who played the witty and clever Hanna. Director and screenwriter Cao Hamburger's feature film is a worthy entry as Brazil's Official Selection for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. This noteworthy script tells a meaningful story.
FILM RATING (B+)