The Year My Parents Went On Vacation
It's 1970 and young Mauro (Michel Joelsas) is pretty much like any other Brazilian preadolescent. OK, he's pretty much like every Brazilian in 1970, crazy for the soccer, for heroes Pelé and Tostao, and for the imminent World Cup, the greatest sports championship on the planet, so when his pensive, stressed-out parents tell him they're going on vacation without him and he's being dropped off to stay with his grandfather, Mauro's only sort of OK with it after his father says he'll be back in time so they can watch Brazil in the Cup together.
But you saw the title of the movie on the way in, right? Mauro finds himself adrift in a new neighborhood with people (some of them really old and grouchy, such as the unsympathetic Shlomo, deftly played by Germano Haiut) who speak a language--Yiddish--with which he is unfamiliar, and he endures a lonely purgatory, trapped into waiting for his parents while soccer-obsessed locals get wound up for the Cup, communist-leaning university students scrawl graffiti against dictatorship, soldiers assemble on the streets, and everyone except Mauro seems to understand what "vacation" means.
Director Cao Hamburger's key achievement in this finely crafted, rich, visually appealing, and absorbing story of an extreme latchkey childhood is in the unvarnished behavior of the youngest cast members. They're the ones who convince you this isn't a movie even while you're reading the English subtitles (it probably also helps to be unfamiliar with circa-1970 Sao Paulo), because you're not watching preposterous, precocious little dog show-coiffed Kean portrait-faced mini movie stars mouthing the darndest things, or poorly coached science-fiction franchise discoveries swimming in f/x; you're seeing unassuming, unaffected children doing stuff kids do in that in-between world away from grownups we lose track of as we get older. So we watch Mauro slip into another life and find a few new friends, notably the feisty Hanna (played with show-stealing glee by Daniela Piepszyk), while the adult world they don't understand swirls around them like bad weather coming on. We're better for having seen this movie, not just because we've got more than a wild guess now for the Academy Awards Foreign Language category, but because we didn't realize how satisfying it would be to take a vacation from Hollywood.