With Brazilian director Cao Hamburger's second feature, 12-year-old Mauro Stein (Michel Joelsas) joins the young protagonists of movies like RUNNING ON EMPTY and BLAME IT ON FIDEL: Children of committed lefties whose lives are disrupted by the fall-out from their parents' radical politics.
Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 1970. Soccer fanatic Mauro Stein is eagerly awaiting the upcoming World Cup when out of the blue his parents, Daniel (Eduardo Moreira) and Bia (Simone Spoladore), announce they're going on vacation. While they're gone, Mauro will be staying with his grandfather Motel (Paulo Autran), a Jewish barber in Sao Paolo. In reality, Mauro's parents are both Communists who have begun to fear that the increasingly oppressive political atmosphere under the right-wing military regime will soon result in their arrest; their "vacation" is really an escape into the underground. In a panic, Daniel and Bia drop Mauro in front of Motel's apartment building in the ethnically diverse Sao Paolo neighborhood of Bom Retiro with the promise that they'll return in time to watch Brazil win the World Cup. Before speeding off, they also reminding him that should anyone ask, he's simply to say that his parents are away on a long vacation. Mauro drags his suitcase up the stairs to his grandfather's apartment but strangely no one answers his knock. Hours later, his grandfather's next-door-neighbor, an elderly Jew named Shlomo (Germano Haiut), arrives home surprised to find Mauro sitting in the hallway, completely unaware of the fact that Motel has in fact just died from a heart attack. Shlomo takes him in, then asks his rabbi and the other members of Bom Retiro's tight-knight Jewish community what he should do. In the meantime, he offers Mauro a place to stay, but he prefers to camp out in his grandfather's apartment, waiting by the phone for his parents' call. Mauro eventually befriends his young downstairs neighbor, Hanna (Daniela Piepszyk), an enterprising young woman who sneaks the neighborhood boys into the warehouse adjoining her mother's clothing store where, for a fee, they can peek into the women's dressing room. Soon, Hanna's friends become his friends, and the mostly Jewish residents of Shlomo's building become Mauro's temporary family. But the World Cup is fast approaching and there's still no sight of his parents who, Mauro begins to fear, may never be coming home from "vacation."
Hamburger's earnest effort offers interesting perspectives on Jewish life in South America's most populous city as well as the fate of political dissidents during a particularly dark period of Brazil's recent past. The acting is uniformly fine, but there are too many scenes of Mauro idly knocking about his grandfather's apartment, poking through drawers, kicking his soccer ball and waiting in vain for his parents to call. They drag the film down, and soon Mauro's year without his parents begins to feel like a very long time indeed.
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