Gilbert Speaks on Alejandro Agresti’s “Valentin”

28 May


This little gem, which was written and directed by Alejandro Agresti, and is based on his childhood, is a worthy addition to my Granny’s Insomnia Theater collection. Whatever adults say and do is witnessed by their children. Would we live differently, if we could see life through theirs eyes? Valentin is a lesson for all of us. Meet me after the jump


Valentin, which is a 2002 Argentine-French-Italian drama, is set in Argentina during the late 1960s and revolves around a nine-year-old boy named Valentin (Rodrigo Noya), who has not seen his mother since he was three years old. His father is a caustic, selfish, brutal man who tells Valentin that his mother had an affair and has run away.


Agresti plays the part of the father. He tells Valentin that his mother wasn’t a good mother because she was Jewish. This tidbit reveals what was going on in Buenos Aires during this time period: Che Guevara, a popular communist revolutionary, is killed by the Bolivian army; the Tacuara Nationalist Movement was responsible for strong anti-Semitism feelings.

Valentin is left in the care of his elderly grandmother, where he is left to question his worth or place in the family. Although Valentin suffers from Strabismus (crossed eyes) and has to wear thick, enormous glasses, he dreams of becoming an astronaut and the first person to land on the moon. The story is narrated by Valentin.

Valentin’s grandmother (Carmen Maura) is strict, but this may be due to the loss of her beloved husband and, because she must depend on what little money her sons give her. Her son, Chiche (Jean Pierre Noher) appears to care more about the boy than his brother does. The father (Alejandro Agresti) is too busy dating and enjoying his life and seldom visits the boy.

Valentin begins to make his own friends which include several adults. Rufo (Mex Urtizberea) is a kindly musician who gives piano lessons to the boy. Rufo recognizes that Valentin is wise beyond his years as finds it easy to confide in the boy about his ex-girlfriend. Leticia (Julieta Cardinali) is the newest girlfriend of Valentin’s father. The boy has a crush on this beautiful woman and since they get along so well together, Valentin is hopeful that she will one day be his stepmother and that he will be part of a family again. The boy sorely misses his mother and can’t fathom why she has not visited him.

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One day, Valentin tells Leticia a few disturbing things about his father, one of which is his feelings for Jewish people. When Leticia begins to cry, Valentin makes her promise not to repeat what he’s revealed to his father. When Leticia breaks up with the father, Valentin receives the full brunt of his father’s fury. The father stops visiting, leaving the care of grandmother solely on Valentin.


Rodrigo Noya is absolutely fabulous in this film and I suggest you watch the film just for this boy’s performance. Noya brings the heart and soul of this film to the forefront. This is a little boy who desperately misses his mother and receives little or no love from his father. His family, other than the sickly grandmother and his uncle who visits occasionally, are the two adults he’s taken under his wing.

It is Valentin who arranges for a doctor to care for his grandmother. It is Valentin who finds a way to repay the doctor for his kindness and it is Valentin who takes her to the hospital. When the grandmother dies, it is Rufo, who consoles the boy, and it is a classmate that offers Valentin a home to stay until school is done.


The film does end on a happier note. Valentin finally learns from a kind stranger why is mother was unable to come back for him. The man gives Valentin a shirt from his mother, then tells him that his mother loves him very much, but that his father’s cruelty has forced her into hiding. Valentin understands that it wasn’t him that drove his mother away and it lifts a weight from his young shoulders.

Since Armstrong has beaten him to the moon, Valentin decides to become a writer, but first he arranges a blind date between Rufo and Leticia. We are told that they lived happily ever after. Valentin has shown us that when you are denied a family, you can create your own.



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