Set in 1969 around the time of Che Guevara’s death in nearby Bolivia, Argentinian crowd-pleaser Valentín is director Alejandro Agresti’s autobiographical account of growing up in Buenos Aires with his grandmother after his mother’s mysterious disappearance. Eight-year-old Valentín (Rodrigo Noya) is an old soul, a fact that non-native speakers may not comprehend if they can’t connect with the nuanced inflection of young Noya’s delivery. This is a performance of effortless grace, and it’s one that easily transcends the otherwise saccharine tone of the film. This is a boy clearly trying to make sense of the world, so it’s probably no surprise that he dreams of becoming an astronaut. The planets are seemingly out of whack and he spends much of his time orchestrating a series of meet-cutes: He brings a doctor to his curmudgeonly grandmother and he sets up one of his father’s ex-girlfriends with the man across the street who teaches him how to play the piano. Some critics have already mistaken Valentín’s eloquence for something cloying, but this is a child who’s genuinely curious about the world (most kids this alone usually are). Precocious? Yes. But like any other child, he’s uninterested in politics (or, for that matter, anything that doesn’t directly revolve around him) and confused by his father’s hatred of Jews; and though he plays Cupid several times in the film, he doesn’t really understand the laws of attraction that keep men and women together or apart. This is a year in the life of a little drama queen who just wants to make it to another. “Se acabo esa parte de mi vida,” he says at one point, referring to a time in his life that he simultaneously wishes and fears to leave behind. Valentín sometimes feels less like a film than a really good sitcom that isn’t afraid to leave things a little untidy. When Valentín successfully negotiates a romantic entanglement, you know that he might just make it after all. That the heartfelt resolution syncs so perfectly with Armstong’s landing on the moon is merely icing on the cake.
Though grainy as hell, the image on this Valentín DVD is still very good: Colors are seductive and blacks are very deep, even if contrast leaves a little to be desired. The Dolby Digital surround sound ensures that the precocious Rodrigo Noya's voice is crystal clear throughout.
The film's theatrical trailer and a 12-minute interview with director Alejandro Argesti, who discusses the autobiographical aspects of Valentín and how he built the story of the film around the memory of having spent a lovely afternoon with one of his father's girlfriends when he was a child. Rounding out the disc are previews for Finding Neverland and The Big One.
I love the color blue on the DVD cover but were the haloes-not to mention the tagline "Cupid Just Turned Eight"-really necessary?