A sleepy Brazilian charmer about a World Cup-obsessed boy whose parents are forced to abandon him and go underground

The Year My Parents Went Away on Vacation

on February 21, 2008 by Amy Nicholson

In 1970, the Brazilian people were ecstatic and paranoid. Pele had just scored his 1,000th goal and the national team was poised to sweep the World Cup. Yet their new military dictatorship had settled in enough to start making dissenters disappear. Only soccer concerns young Mauro (Michel Joelsas); his parents (Simone Spoladore and Eduardo Moreira) keep him so sheltered that he’s angry but unsuspecting when his mother announces they’re taking a vacation without him and, after a nail-biting drive to Sao Paulo, drop their only son at her father’s apartment building without even running up to say hello. Grandpa (Paulo Autran) wouldn’t have been able to answer, anyway—he died that morning.

Abandoned in the city, Mauro is taken in resentfully by Granddad’s neighbor Shlomo (Germano Hauit) for some odd-couple bonding that bounces between cruel and sitcom as the building of Polish Jews is shocked to find that one of their own doesn’t know Yiddish and never even got circumcised. Who force-feeds a deserted child gefilte fish? The five writers behind the script can’t agree on its tone, which settles into the usual formula of crying scenes and neighborhood hotties (Liliana Castro) and neighborhood toughs (helmed by brusque 10-year-old Daniela Piepszyk) stretched out with lots of silence.

Director Cao Hamburger’s decision to capture the era through Mauro’s eyes makes the world outside of soccer vague and frustrating; we’re supposed to find depth in the shadows, but instead feel like Mauro staring endlessly out the window for a car that never comes. When the World Cup is on, however, the film sparks to life as, like America, Brazil is a land of immigrants. Hamburger’s montage of everyone in the country—young, old, Jewish, African, Italian—screaming as one at the TV is the best reason yet for us to give a damn about soccer.

Distributor: City Lights
Cast: Michel Joelsas, Germano Hauit and Daniela Piepszyk
Director: Cao Hamburger
Screenwriters: Cao Hamburger, Claudio Galperin, Adriana Falcao, Braulio
Mantovani and Anna Muylaert
Producers: Caio Gullane, Fabiano Gullane and Cao Hamburger
Genre: Drama; Portuguese-, Yiddish- and German-language, subtitled
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 110 min.

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