With Fellini as his muse, Leonardo Ricagni attempts to craft a whimsical ode to childhood, friendship, and the divine power of words and knowledge with Goodbye Momo. What he comes up with instead is middling Cinema Paradiso magic realism turned lifeless by abundant treacle and a literal approach to his lightly surreal material. In Uruguay during the 40-day Carnival (the longest in the world), illiterate 11-year-old Afro-Uruguayan boy Obdulio (Mathias Acuña)—who sells newspapers on the street in order to provide for his two young sisters—is pressed by his grandmother, a friendly bartender (Canario Luna), and a newspaper office’s night watchman (Jorge Esmoris) to attend school. It’s the latter of these adults who makes the strongest impression on Obdulio, who, at first grudgingly and then eagerly, allows the imaginative man to teach him how to read and write via lessons involving lyrics for the songs of the Murgas, the Carnival’s signature performance troupes. Their educational encounters are of the squishy, cloying variety, and no more graceful than Ricagni’s rudimentary, ham-fisted crosscutting, which bludgeons rather than glides. Slightly more inspired are those moments shared by Obdulio and best friend Rusito (Marco Da Costa), which have a sincere, playful naturalism that’s nicely complemented by the director’s delicate, lyrical use of shadows and silhouettes. And despite the schematic coming-of-age trail set for his character, Acuña has an unaffected charm that helps alleviate some of the syrup coating virtually every chance encounter, twist of fate, tragedy, and triumph. Mostly, though, Goodbye Momo piles on ornately dressed performers, frolicsome clowns prone to vanishing into thin air, and shots of the cloud-draped moon—intended to amplify the fantasticality of Carnival nights, which are themselves contrasted with the harsh, sunny workday—to almost no poignant effect, all while delivering a narrative whose monotony leads to emotional and thematic inertia.
- Fabrication Films
- 108 min
- Leonardo Ricagni
- Leonardo Ricagni
- Mathias Acuña, Jorge Esmoris, Marco Da Costa, Washington "Canario" Luna, Marcel Keoroglian, Carmen Abella
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