Beautifully realised coming-of-age flick

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It’s a cheap trick: take one cute, precocious child and inflict them on a crotchety, cantankerous elderly person and watch as mutual lessons are learned (the mawkish Kolya and the more successful Central Station are recent examples). But this Argentinean picture is so appealing, it’s difficult to resist.

The main reason for its success lies with the casting. Newcomer Rodrigo Noya is adorable as the eight-year-old Valentin, gripped by the twin obsessions of space travel (one of the film’s most touching scenes shows Valentin in a homemade space suit) and family. Sadly, he has no contact with his mother, only sporadic visits from his aggressive father, and lives with his perpetually carping grandmother (Carmen Maura). But the enterprising Valentin sets about creating a family from his wine-sodden musician neighbour and one of his father’s girlfriends. The story is based on director Alejandro Agresti’s own childhood, and he takes the role of his own abusive father, providing a darkly fascinating subtext.


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