Valentin is a precocious 8 year old boy who, like another famous 8 eight year old; Lisa Simpson, is wise beyond his years. In a moment of sincerity and innocence, he screams “Why do all grown ups lie all the time?” the theme of this funny, charming film from Argentinian writer-director Alejandro Agresti.

Valentin is played by the irresistibly cute Rodrigo Noya, and resembles a cross between Etre et Avoir’s Jojo and The Wonder Years’ Paul Pfeiffer. Valentin lives with his grandmother (Carmen Maura), who is slowly losing the will to live following the death of her husband. Valentin has little contact with his parents. His father (played by the director) lives like a bachelor in another city, only paying reluctant visits, and his mother won’t, or can’t, see him. Valentin barely remembers her, but spends his days counting to 1000 in the hope that this will bring her knock at the door.

Every now and then his father brings home his latest girlfriend, and each time Valentin achingly hopes that this one will be a mother to him, but the relationships never last. One day his father brings Letitia (Julieta Cardinali) home, and she is beautiful and kind, everything Valentin has dreamt about. Letitia spends the day with Valentin who, starved of female attention, treats it like a first date, in some of the film’s funniest scenes. He falls for her, but as they share their secrets he is indiscrete, and accidentally divulges what his father is really like. This ends the relationship, and widens the emotional gulf between father and son.

Valentin is a celebration of innocence; a film which argues that no parent has a more important role in life than the care of their children. It’s also a celebration of women, and a reminder that men’s perceptions of women are not intuitive, but are taught. Every man in Valentin’s life passes on his own prejudices; his primitive uncle argues “It’s not just the breasts, a woman is more than that”, while his doleful piano teacher explains “Women are a necessary evil.”

At the end of the film Valentin tells us he has decided to become a writer: “At least I had enough for one story, even if it is a little one.” It is a little story, but like the boy, it is a delight.

Valentin (2002)
Dir. Alejandro Agresti
Stars: Rodrigo Noya, Carmen Maura, Alejandro Agresti, Julieta Cardinali, Jean Pierre Noher, Mex Urtizberea, Fabian Vena, Carlos Roffe, Lorenzo Quinteros
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

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