A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Valentin is a 2003 Venezuelan film (with English subtitles) set in 1967 Buenos Aires featuring a clever young boy trying to understand the numerous adult themes that affect his life. He ponders and negotiates divorce, adultery, spousal abuse, alcoholism, love, male chauvinism, mental illness, and mortality as they cross his path and trigger responses. Adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "slut." A father with a hair-trigger temper constantly yells at and threatens his small son. A negative view of Jews is suggested. A father is said to have hit his son when the son asked the dad to look for his mother. A key character dies. An adult tells a young boy that women are not just breasts, and that "asses" are important. Adults smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. A neighbor drinks a lot.
What's the story?
VALENTIN is an 8-year-old boy (Rodgrigo Noya) who narrates this story about tough breaks in childhood. Valentin is told his mother was unfaithful to his father and either left or was sent away when he was small. He wants to see her, and references to her make it seem as if she was either physically abused or mentally ill or suffering from an addiction. Valentin is assured from others that she loves him but is either too afraid of the father or too ashamed of her condition to show herself to the boy. He tells one friend of hers that he would take his mother "just as she is," if only she would show up. Valentin lives with his ailing grandmother (Carmen Maura), who dwells largely in the past, longing for her deceased husband and lamenting the way her son -- Valentin's father -- turned out. The father (director Alejandro Agresti) rarely comes around to see the boy, and when he does, it's often to introduce his son to a new girlfriend, someone who is bound to leave as soon as she figures out what a brute the dad is. One such ex is the kind and sublime Leticia (Julieta Cardinali), who forms a sweet attachment with Valentin but disappears quickly when she gets to know the father. Nevertheless, Valentin seeks her out and establishes his own friendship with her, introducing her to a far better man, with whom she finally forms an enduring relationship. Valentin gives up on being an astronaut and decides to become a writer, with the autobiographical movie the seeming result of his work.
Is it any good?
The filmmakers create a world from a boy's point of view convincingly, but the narrator's 8-year-old voice is jarringly mismatched with the sophistication of the boy's insights and observations. Valentin presents a young boy who is self-aware enough to remark on feeling good even after disaster has recently struck. And not many 8-year-olds would observe that "a crisis always brings family together." Noya gives an impressive performance as the precocious child, but the movie isn't meant for kids, given its language and mature themes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that although the narrator is a bright kid, he seems far too young to understand as much as he does about the world. Does it seem misleading that although Valentin explores adult themes, most of it is told from a child's point of view?
How does this compare to other coming-of-age stories you've seen or read?
How does the movie's setting affect the storyline? How could you learn more about Argentina in the 1960s?
- In theaters: February 6, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: January 6, 2012
- Cast: Rodrigo Noya, Carmen Maura, Julieta Cardinali
- Director: Alejandro Agresti
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 86 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: for some thematic elements and language
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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