(2002)2.5Elbert VenturaDirector Alejandro Agresti's autobiographical feature is a feel-good tearjerker barely redeemed by its star's precocious charm. The titular hero may be based on the childhood Agresti, but nine-year-old Valentin (Rodrigo Noya) seems to have stepped right out of a Dickens novel. Left by his mother, practically forgotten by his father (Agresti), and living with his crotchety grandma (Carmen Maura), the plucky tyke fends for himself through sheer imagination and good cheer. It's a sunny movie, burnished by nostalgia, but Agresti panders shamelessly to the audience. Playing each close-up of the cross-eyed Noya for maximum cutesy effect, the director doesn't withhold anything: every emotion is underlined and explicated. The movie makes a half-baked attempt to enlarge its context with an explicit allusion to Argentina-born revolutionary Che Guevara and a subplot involving anti-Semitism. Those stabs at real-world relevance only end up underscoring the movie's essential falseness, however. Set in the late '60s, Valentin has its wistful pleasures, not least in its evocation of the director's boyhood Buenos Aires. But the pedestrian filmmaking and the movie's middlebrow spirit ultimately doom this cloying, if innocuous, concoction.