Suddenly all alone, Mauro is reluctantly taken in by a gruff, religiously-devote, elderly Jew, Shlomo (Germano Haiut). From here, the story moves along well worn story lines. Elderly, Jewish Shlomo and boyish, goyish Mauro have great difficulty growing accustomed to one another, but inevitably develop deep mutual affection. Mauro befriends the local children within the tightly-packed Jewish neighborhood, and hits it off especially well with a spunky girl of similar age, Hanna (Daniela Piepszyk). Mauro develops a crush for an unattainable ingénue, Irene (Liliana Castro), to the consternation of Hanna. The kids play ball in the streets, take joy in Brazil's success in the 1970 Soccer World Cup, and try to satisfy their emerging sexual curiosity by sneaking peaks at women undressing.
Throughout The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, there are many scenes designed to provoke laughter or tears. Though it's generally clumsily obvious which is which, any doubts are immediately resolved by the score that always pushes the viewer one way or the other. Director Cao Hamburger brooks no ambiguities.
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation is narrated by Mauro from some indeterminate future date. Though his voice sounds no older, his ability to comprehend and put into words the events of that time suggests several years distance. Despite the fact that filmmaker Hamburger uses Mauro's narration to shape the film, he's not reluctant to show scenes to which Mauro was not present. Thus though The Year My Parents Went on Vacation is informed by Mauro's experience, it's not thoroughly grounded in it.
The trite, overly-sentimental storyline of The Year My Parents Went on Vacation is partially redeemed by strong acting from its child actors, Michel Joelsas and Daniela Piepszyk, and by an interesting backdrop against which the narrative unfolds. Joelsas is believable throughout despite his rather difficult role, and Piepszyk brings a great deal of charisma to her role. And, though the protagonists are too young to understand the events taking place around them, the glimpses of a country obsessed with soccer while in the midst of political upheaval provide some modest relief from an otherwise unimaginative coming-of-age story.
For what it is, a mawkishly clichéd coming-of-age story, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation is fairly good, and sports excellent child actors and a mildly interesting back story. For viewers looking for a film that the whole family can sit through together (again presuming everyone's willing to read subtitles), you could do worse.