"The Overcoming Power of Hope"
What You Need To Know:
VALENTIN shouts the importance of family to the life, stability and outlook of a child. Recently, a national radio commentator remarked that the biggest status symbol in America is now longevity in marriage. Despite some unresolved anti-Semitism and foul language, VALENTIN is a poignant film. It creates sympathy for the young boy’s desires to have a mother, but it doesn’t provide explicit Christian answers.
(H, Ab, C, L, A, D, M) Humanist worldview portraying the hopelessness of a lonely, broken family with some anti-Semitic sentiments and some Christian portrayals of church, priests and prayer; about nine mostly mild obscenities; no violence; a few portrayals of alcohol, including one man thought to be an alcoholic swigging down liquor from a bottle; smoking; and, racial prejudice, poor parenting, poor grand-parenting, and hopelessness despite church attendance.
VALENTIN is a young boy who lives with his grandmother in a small apartment in Argentina in the late 1960s. The grandmother tells Valentin that his father (who rarely makes an appearance in their lives and always has a different girlfriend) is so grouchy because he almost suffocated as a newborn and because his wife (Valentin’s mother) was an ungrateful Jewess.
As young Valentin narrates his story, he continually expresses his yearning for a family and his regret that he doesn’t know his mother, despite the grandmother’s disparaging remarks about her. He confides his thoughts to his neighbor, Rufo, a classical pianist and grown man thought to be a borderline alcoholic. Rufo is sympathetic and tells Valentin that he, too, is a Jew. Valentin asks him if that’s a good thing. Rufo just laughs and plays the piano.
As Valentin travels through his small village, he fantasizes about becoming an astronaut and comments, “There are people who seem not to live, or to make any use out of life.” His uncle comes to visit and shows the family a new invention: the audiocassette. They record a letter to a relative and then go to church. At church, many parishioners walk out because the priest is challenging his flock to take political action in the conflict with Bolivia.
Valentin goes to a Catholic school that’s free, and he longs to be like his best friend, with fun parents who are together, who laugh a lot, and who are so close-knit. He says he’s not sure if his grandmother is good or bad, and he ponders Rufo’s statement that men are sweeter than women, and that women are a necessary evil. He decides he doesn’t agree, and he sets off to find his mother. He tells his friends, “One day the doorbell will ring, and it will be my mother.”
Valentin’s father then brings home a gorgeous, young, blonde woman, and Valentin simply adores her. He has a special day out with her one day, where he pours out his heart to her, telling her that his father will not let him know his mother. The woman comforts him and soon breaks up with the father. Valentin is crushed and sets out to find her after a few months, reasoning that if he can’t have his real mother, this woman will be a wonderful alternative. He comes up with a sweet plan to make this happen, but there are many obstacles in his way. His grandmother is deathly ill, his father is angry with him and blaming him for the break-up, and the desires of several individuals are completely unknown. With hope in his heart, young Valentin bucks some powerful traditions and bravely tries his plan.
VALENTIN is a sweet, sad foreign film that shows a wonderful little boy who must paddle upstream in a dark, hopeless environment to realize his dream of a real family and an adventurous future. With the same general feel of CINEMA PARADISO, this subtitled Spanish film is an interesting diversion from other cinematic spring fare.
This is yet another message of the importance of family to the life and stability and outlook of a child. Recently, a national radio commentator remarked that the biggest status symbol in America is no longer money, career, or prestige. Rather, it is longevity in marriage. VALENTIN would second that notion, it appears.
The movie does show some unresolved anti-Semitism and has some foul language. Otherwise, it’s a generally interesting, though slightly dark and brooding, foreign film.