The title of Cao Hamburger’s "The Year My Parents Went on Vacation" is euphemistic. The main character, a 12-year-old boy named Mauro, is the child of activists in 70s Brazil who are forced to stow him with his grandfather and go underground in order to avoid arrest — only his grandfather has died, and Mauro is instead cared for by the residents of his multi-ethnic SÃ£o Paulo neighborhood. What has the potential to be (under darker auspices) a little sentimental is, according to the critics, in fact a little sentimental — not necessarily a terrible thing. The New York Times‘ A.O. Scott finds the film "is most seductive when it focuses on the details of daily life in the lower-middle-class SÃ£o Paulo neighborhood Bom Retiro. The rhythms of commerce, worship and domesticity — the sounds of apartment house courtyards, synagogues and shops — frequently overshadow what turns out to be a fairly conventional and sentimental story." Andrew Sarris at the New York Observer adds that "I found the film fascinating for showing me entertainingly a world I still know very little about. The performance of Master Joelsas and Ms. Piepszyk demonstrate once more that this is the golden age of child performers here and abroad." At the Village Voice, Jean Oppenheimer writes that "this warmly engaging film benefits from its understated approach (it suggests rather than spells out the political turmoil), and its light, comedic tone never mitigates the drama of the central story." And Nick Schager at Slant declares that "while there’s nothing seriously objectionable about Cao Hamburger’s film, there’s also little to distinguish it from the pack, save for a pleasingly light directorial touch." "The Year My Parents Went on Vacation" was on the Oscar shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film, but didn’t ultimately make the final five.
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