From the Rotten Tomatoes entry: “A coming of age story told through the eyes of a precocious 10-year old boy who lives with his grandmother in turbulent 1969 Argentina.”
Life for Valentin is tougher than most. His mother is unfortunately absent. His abusive father is fortunately absent, at least most of the time, and his grandmother, with whom he lives, though she loves him, nevertheless unhealthily burdens him with a lifetime of cares, anger, and resentments far beyond his years. The most positive influences in his life are tangential ones, the piano teacher who lives next door and his father’s kindly girlfriend whom he desperately wants to keep for a step-mother. If that makes the movie sound like a drag. It’s not, for two reasons. First, Valentin is remarkably resilient and able to manufacture coping mechanisms that allow him not only to survive, but to thrive in a confusing, difficult, and unpredictable world. The film reminds me a bit of Mitt Liv Som Hund in this regard. It’s heart warming to see that kind of triumph of the human spirit, especially as it pertains to children. Second, because the story is told through Valentin’s 8-year-old point of view, the sadness of his situation is filtered through dramatic irony. In several scenes, particularly the day he spends with his father’s girlfriend, the audience is deftly left to read between the lines and intuit the darker reality behind what Valentin simply accepts at face value. The film has only a 61% critic rating, but a 93% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Phooey on the critics on this one; this is a good film, well worth watching.