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Valentin

Director: Alejandro Agresti

(Argentina-Netherlands| 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 86 mins.)


Argentine writer-director Alejandro Agresti admits to drawing on his own life experiences of surviving a tumultuous childhood (and even stars as the abusive father) in the sweetly affecting Valentin, a moving look at family life as viewed through the eyes (and the coke-bottle eyeglasses) of a funny, lonely yet resilient boy. Living in an isolated 1960s Buenos Aires flat with his cranky, out-of-touch grandmother (Carmen Maura), nine-year-old Valentin (Rodrigo Maura) wants nothing more than a real family. His mother mysteriously fled when he was three, and his father shunted him off to live with his own mother in order to devote himself to womanising. Left to his own devices, Valentin gives in easily to fantasies, suiting up as an astronaut and harbouring dreams of a career with NASA. He also attempts to play Cupid when he meets Leticia (Juliet Cardinali), the latest in a long line of potential stepmothers his father parades in front of him. As he opens up to the enchanting, free-spirited Leticia, the boy’s life begins to change in unpredictable ways.
Delicately balancing sometimes absurd humour and highly emotional drama, Agresti fashions a fresh coming-of-age story. He elicits strong performances from an impeccable cast and is aided enormously by sterling work from cinematographer Jose Luis Cajaraville and composer Paul M. van Bruggen. The film provides a richly inventive portrait of Buenos Aires in the 1960s, with its heightened colours and playful camera angles reflecting the imaginative way children look at the world.

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