The Year My Parents Went On Vacation
Ahh, that classic Brazilian kids’ game: Chase the girl!

Theatrical Release Date: 11/02/2006 (Brazil), 04/11/2008 (USA)
Director: Cao Hamburger
Cast: Michel Joelsas, Germano Haiut, Daniela Piepszyk

Have you been waiting for a feel-good film where a little boy and an old man bond in that Hallmark card kind of way? Well, then “The Year My Parents Went On Vacation” is sort of for you! Hooray! Oh, sorry, I got a little carried away there.

In the film, a little boy named Mauro (Michel Joelsas) is dropped off to stay with his grandfather while his parents go off and partake in the left-wing militant ideals many participated in during the oppressive Brazilian regime of the 1970s.

While being essentially abandoned by his parents and having to grow up in these turbulent time might take precedence in most kids’ lives, Mauro’s more concerned with the World Cup. You see, there’s this sport called soccer, or fútbol if you prefer. In other countries, it’s like the NFL, MLB and NBA all rolled into one. Here, we let our kids play it until they graduate to the other sports, and even with a Spice girl attached to the high-priced star of our “professional” league, no one watches.

That’s definitely not the case in Brazil, where a World Cup game brings the country to a halt as everyone gathers together to watch their team. And for the sports fans out there, you probably know how important this particular team was, consisting of such great one-name stars as Tostão and Pelé.

Getting back to the point, one of the twists in the film is that instead of bonding with his grandfather, Mauro bonds with the old neighbor … which is sort of the same thing, only it adds the element of how a stranger can open their heart and door to someone in need. I know that sounds hokey but that’s how these types of films work.

Or at least, that’s how they should work. My main complaint with the film is that I never really connected with Mauro. His acting isn’t terrible but between the World Cup fascination (which does have an absent father rationale behind it) and the alluded to issues of the political regime at the time, it was hard for me to focus.

The film is supposed to be taken from Mauro’s perspective – as he adapts to this strange new community. However, much of it felt more like we were just watching his actions through our own eyes, creating a disconnect for me in a film of this genre.

I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed every scene with Hanna (Daniela Piepszyk) – the precocious, quasi-ingénue in the same building. She was a breath of energy and fresh air that this film sorely needed. The cute, adolescent flirting that goes on between her and Mauro is endearing and I would much rather have seen that relationship explored more than the one between Mauro and the neighbor who takes him in.

All of the production elements are done well and, for all intents and purposes, the film is decent all around. I suppose it all comes down to this: Do you want a pleasant film that isn’t going to do much of anything – good or bad? If so, by all means go out and catch this one. For me, I wanted a little bit more but because most of the vital elements were hit squarely enough, I’ll give “The Year My Parents Went On Vacation” a 3 out of 5.

As a side note, this was Brazil’s Official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 80th Annual Academy Awards. While it’s a sweet film, I think something like “City of Men” was far more substantial but maybe that couldn’t be submitted in time because of its release date in Brazil. Even if that’s the case, I guess the connective quality must have passed me by because while this is a good film, there’s nothing extra special about it. I sound a little curmudgeony, maybe I need a vacation.