The Year My Parents Went on Vacation – DVD Review
by John Cavanagh on August 16, 2008
Available at Amazon.com

Set during a time where the political climate of Brazil was at an all time high, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation is a surprisingly small and intimate film. We follow a young 12-year-old boy, named Mauro, as his parents (two political activists) go on “vacation” and leave him with his grandfather, promising to return in time for the World Cup. However, unbeknownst to them, his grandfather passes away from a heart attack mere hours before his arrival to the apartment building. Leaving him to fend for himself — until a kind, if not strict, old man named Shlomo next door takes him under his wing and cares for the kid. It doesn’t take long before he befriends to local children and becomes a neighborhood kid of sorts, making ins with all of the colorful locals. As the weeks begin to pass and the Cup tournament gets under way, Mauro begins to get worried.

The only real complaint that could be made here is that the story of the parents could have made for a far more interesting and mature viewing experience, but this isn’t their story. And perhaps that’s exactly why The Year My Parents Went on Vacation works so well, it tells a story we rarely ever get to see portrayed on screen. Were it not for these characters, and this particular time period in Brazil’s history, the story would lose a lot of what makes the viewing experience so pleasing.

Acting is very much above average across the board, with surprising performances by the younger cast members. The story keeps you engaged for the brief ninety or so minutes that it lasts, and the writing feels very natural throughout most of its length. The biggest flaw to be found in this movie is its lack of memorable scenes or moments. It’s still a deeply gratifying watch, but there’s nothing here that gives it that extra punch of importance. Adriano Goldman’s cinematography and Cao Hamburger’s direction styles are what make this such a compelling movie to watch, if only for the visuals and framing choices.

The only one that comes close that I can remember would be Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth. Not necessarily in terms of tone or genre, but the underlying focus of a child forced to deal with the menace of violence. Much like with young Ofelia, our lead never “comes of age” in the traditional sense. He simply finds ways to cope with the mental strain of being alone, and the older figures around him trying to shroud him from reality. Futbol becomes the main way through which he escapes reality, taking shelter in his obsession. Perhaps it’s just easier to bill a film as a coming of age tale than a “dealing with life as it comes at you” story.


Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the films transfer has a healthy amounts of film grain, solid black levels and a very crisp image which all combine for a very pleasing viewing experience. English and Spanish subtitles are included with the predominately Portuguese audio track. Sounds are spread out evenly across the mix and subtitles are nicely paced.


Sadly, the bonus material that is included on the disc don’t leave much to talk about. Apart from the International Trailer (2:22) (non-anamorphic), U.S.A. Trailer (1:50), and a short collection of Extended Scenes and Outtakes (6:47 total) which don’t contain any subtitles to view them in context, we only have two brief Making Of featurettes to sink our teeth into. Interviews with Cast and Crew (15:38) is the best feature of the bunch, which is a candid chat with the cast, director and producers where they discuss the typical topics in a piece like this but come across as genuine and excited to talk about their experiences. Finally is Inside the Movie Featurette (9:51) which, sadly, recycles clips from the other extra and intercuts it with footage from the movie and on set filming.


The story of The Year My Parents Went on Vacation is similar to Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth. Not necessarily in terms of tone or genre, but the underlying focus of a child forced to deal with the menace of violence. Much like with young Ofelia, our lead never “comes of age” in the traditional sense. He simply finds ways to cope with the mental strain of being alone, and the older figures around him trying to shroud him from reality. Futbol becomes the main way through which he escapes reality, taking shelter in his obsession. Perhaps it’s just easier to bill a film as a coming of age tale than a “dealing with life as it comes at you” story.

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City Lights Home Entertainment Presents The Year My Parents Went on Vacation. Directed by: Cao Hamburger. Starring: Michel Joelsas, Germano Haiut, Caio Blat, Daniela Piepszyk. Written by: Adriana Falcão, Claudio Galperin, Cao Hamburger, Bráulio Mantovani, Anna Muylaert. Running time: 105 minutes. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: July 15, 2008. Available at Amazon.com



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