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by Elaine Perrone

"Bittersweet remembrances of things past."
4 stars

FIRST SCREENED AT SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2003, OPENING NIGHT FEATURE INTRODUCED BY WRITER-DIRECTOR ALEJANDRO AGRESTI. Set in Buenos Aires in 1969, "Valentín" is Agresti's deeply personal recreation of his own bittersweet childhood in the months preceding the Apollo 11 moon landing. At the heart of this warm, quirky film is Valentín himself (Rodrigo Noya), an enormously charming 8-year old with slightly crossed eyes topped by Coke-bottle glasses, whose dream of becoming an astronaut in a country without a space program is surpassed only by his longing for a devoted family to replace his irreparably broken one.

A plucky, self-sufficient child, Valentín is being reared by his widowed abuela (grandmother) (Carmen Maura), who loves her grandson dearly but is engulfed in her own memories and embittered by her deeply ingrained prejudices. His mother, who he barely remembers, disappeared inexplicably several years earlier, a situation with which Valentín struggles mightily to come to terms. His father (played by Agresti), a womanizer with a violent temper, is supposed to be sending support checks to Abuela, but rarely comes through. Mostly absent, the father returns only occasionally with a succession of girlfriends, each of whom the little boy fantasizes as a potential stepmom -- until he lays eyes on them. (Of one, he laments, "She was a stewardess, a great mother for an astronaut. I got all excited until I saw this fatso.")

Then, Valentín meets his dad's latest girlfriend, the beautiful and generous Leticia (Julieta Cardinali), with whom he quickly bonds and spends a glorious day. Eager to woo Leticia into becoming his new mother, Valentín opens up to her as he has been unable to do with anyone before, inadvertently letting slip a shocking revelation about his father that causes her to run away. His feelings of loss and grief at what he sees as yet another abandonment are intensified when his father blames him for Leticia's leaving.

Brokenhearted, Valentín spends more and more time with his next-door neighbor, Rufo (Mex Urtizberea), an eccentric music teacher whose only company besides the little boy is his piano and his whiskey. As Valentín explains it, "Rufo gave me the feeling that I was older and more useful," and, in return, the precocious youngster sets about bringing order and happiness to Rufo's messy life, just as he connives to do with his grandmother's, his father's, and his own. When man and boy become anchors for each other, and Rufo comes through for Valentín in a time of major crisis, the little boy finally begins to experience the joys of family that he craves.

Watching this delightful child, with his huge brown eyes and his expressive face that could light up the world or cause rain to fall, one can just see the wheels turning in that devilish little mind as he concocts his plans to arrange people's lives in ways he thinks best for everyone concerned. Think "junior Amélie," and you get the picture.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=9004&reviewer=376
originally posted: 10/14/04 19:52:25
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

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10/05/06 k awesome video for all ages! 5 stars
4/30/04 Ray Okey Dokey!!! 4 stars
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  DVD: 12-Oct-2004



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