Reviewed by: David Haviland

Valentin is a precocious eight-year-old boy, who, like another famous eight-year-old, Lisa Simpson, is wise beyond his years. In a moment of sincerity and innocence, he screams, "Why do grown ups lie all the time?", which becomes the theme of this funny, charming film from Argentinean writer/director Alejandro Agresti.

The irresistibly cute Rodrigo Noya, who resembles a cross between Etre Et Avoir's Jojo and The Wonder Years' Paul Pfeiffer, plays Valentin. He lives with his grandmother (Carmen Maura), who is slowly losing the will to live, following the death of her husband.

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There is little parental contact. His father (played by the director) lives like a bachelor in another city, only paying reluctant visits, and his mother won't, or can't, see him. He barely remembers her, but spends his days counting to 1000, in the hope that this will bring her knock at the door.

Every now and again, his father invites his latest girlfriend home and each time Valentin achingly hopes that this one will be a mother to him. But the relationships never last. One day, his father brings Letitia (Julieta Cardinali) and she is beautiful and kind, everything Valentin has dreamt about. She spends the day with Valentin who, starved of female attention, treats it like a first date, in some of the film's funniest scenes. He falls for her, but, as they share their secrets, he is indiscrete and accidentally divulges what his father is really like. This ends the relationship and widens the emotional gulf between father and son.

The film is a celebration of innocence, while arguing the point that no parent has a more important role in life than taking care of their children. It's also a celebration of women and a reminder that men's perception of them is not intuitive, but taught. Every man in Valentin's life passes on his own prejudices. His primitive uncle declares, "It's not just the breasts; a woman is more than that," while his doleful piano teacher announces, "Women are a necessary evil."

By the end, Valentin is telling us that he has decided to become a writer:

"At least, I had enough for one story," he says. "Even if it is a little one."

It may be little, but like the boy, it is a delight.

Reviewed on: 22 Jan 2004
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An eight-year-old boy desperately tries to build himself a family.
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Director: Alejandro Agresti

Writer: Alejandro Agresti

Starring: Rodrigo Noya, Carmen Maura, Alejandro Agresti, Julieta Cardinali, Jean Pierre Noher, Mex Urtizberea, Fabian Vena, Carlos Roffe, Lorenzo Quinteros

Year: 2002

Runtime: 82 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Argentina, Netherlands


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