A piece of sentimentality but an especially earned one, this second feature from Brazil’s Cao Hamburger demonstrates that there’s room in his country’s cinema for both tough views of urban squalor like City of God and Fellini-esque magical-summer stories. The Year My Parents Went on Vacation is composed of familiar parts; even its wide-eyed, childlike title announces a certain brand of world cinema that’s gone stale in recent years.
But Hamburger has clearly taken pains to get many things right, including a vividly evoked 1970 São Paulo, racked with World Cup fever, and the forlorn lope of young Mauro (the debuting Joelsas), the son of paranoid political activists who deposit him at his grandfather’s doorstep for safety’s sake. The old man has, alas, expired, leaving Mauro in the unwilling company of his grandfather’s friend Shlomo (Haiut), an Orthodox Jew surprised at Mauro’s uncircumcised petzel and finicky manners.
Eventually Mauro makes friends in the ethnically diverse neighborhood, and there’s poignancy in his gravitation to the position of goalkeeper, subconsciously blocking out his abandonment. It’s a movie that suggests the resilience of children—not their fragility—and even their capacity to heal adults.
For that, it feels special.