All About My Father: A Son Tries to Finish His Dad’s Secret Work


This semi-autobiographical story of an affluent São Paulo stock speculator who loses his job amid the ’90s market downturn seems at first thematically akin to Laurent Cantet’s 2001 Time Out, a meditation on the existential aspects of employment. But once Daniel (Cláudio Fontana) discovers that his dead father (secretly a Communist and artist) had begun and abandoned a documentary about São Paulo, he pledges to continue the work. This is where director Dardo Toledo Barros’s film loses steam. Instead of illuminating the cultural and political stew of the city by showing us the results of Daniel’s labors (there are snippets of the father’s film throughout, mostly interviews with immigrant men), Barros offers pedestrian scenes tracing things like Daniel’s successful fundraising efforts at a Japanese credit union. It all starts to seem a bit self-congratulatory (Barros even rewards his alter ego with a lovely young paramour to replace the knockout ice-queen wife who ditched him when the chips were down). As we watch Daniel’s father seethe through a moving final monologue (via one of the earlier monochrome interviews) about hating São Paulo, we don’t doubt his discontent, but long for more in the way of evidence. In the end, both the roiling city and this potentially fascinating radical patriarch retain their maddening opacity.

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