Thursday Till Sunday (2013) ****
Dir. Dominga Sotomayor Castillo
Starring: Santi Ahumada, Francisco Pérez-Bannen, Paola Giannini, Emiliano Freifeld, Axel Dupré
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Children know everything. We know nothing. Their sense of intuition is so intense, so acute and so otherworldly that very little escapes them. What keeps kids kids, is innocence, but it doesn't take long for them to slowly lose it.
And it's all our fault.
Some call it growing up - which, I suppose it is, but I sure wish it was not such a necessary evil and most of all, that it could come without having to experience the heartbreak of loss.
Thursday Till Sunday is all about loss, but as such, it provides a bedrock of hope that delivers the illusion that through their pain, they will experience a light we sometimes find elusive, that they will, from our mistakes create a world of more perfect balance for themselves. Most of all, we hope - no matter how much pain we've tried to suppress to keep them pure - that this pain has not seeped to deeply into their pristine state of being.
Writer-Director Dominga Sotomayor has crafted a film of great truth and even greater drama by allowing her camera to capture endless small details of life through long, perfectly composed shots - often in close proximity to the exquisitely etched characters.
She begins her alternately poetic and Neo-realist tale under the cover of darkness as parents secret their sleepy children into the back seat of a car. There's nothing at all malevolent about this - nothing most parents haven't done when setting off on an early morning road trip to make the most of the day.
We do, however, get a hint that all is not well when a brief verbal exchange between the husband and wife suggests some confusion as to whether or not both of them will be coming along. It's not a big thing, but the movie, like life, is full of these small details signalling that which can be so much bigger.
So it is that we begin a movie set firmly on the road as the family of four - Mom, Dad, the older sister and the little brother - engage in an extended long weekend trip from their home in Santiago to the wilds of northern Chile to take in some sights, some swimming, some camping and a gander at a parcel of land that Dad's father has left to him in his will.
Anyone who has been on a similar road trip with their parents will knowingly recognize the endless nature of the proceedings - especially to kids. Dominga brilliantly and steadfastly sticks to the older child's point of view. Lucia (Santi Ahumada) is 12 - that annoying, frustrating cusp of burgeoning hormonal and psychological changes that allow for moments of recognition that cannot be fully understood, nor acted upon.
It is ultimately, through Lucia's eyes and/or in her presence, that we slowly realize the portent and utter weight of this road trip - one that will be the last these four will ever take as a family. Separation looms like some dark cloud of inevitability and it is painful - not just for the parents and the children, but for the viewer also. Even more astonishingly, one almost senses the filmmaker's pain by the manner in which her clever mise-en-scène never waivers from its resolution to create such rich dramatic truth.
Dominga plants the camera in one position (often within the car) and events play out the way they would in life. When cuts are employed, they're not so much jarring as they are fluidly leading us ever forward into the story. They're there, but many of the transitions feel invisible - as they should in a story told with such a measured pace and an eye for detail. In fact, some might even feel the details are of little interest, but Dominga manages to craft the film in such a manner that most audiences will give over to its rhythm early on and catch small details that do indeed provide important pieces of the story's puzzle.
There isn't a single performance in the film that feels off. Ahumada, though, is exceptional. The camera loves her and she displays intelligence and maturity, but also dollops of all those elements that betray her age. The film almost seems to build on her performance and character. We're bored when she's bored, angry when she is, joyful when she is and most heartbreakingly, though we catch on much earlier to the clues and facts of the matter than she does, we are indeed caught by surprise when she is during those moments of painful realization.
Ahumada, through Dominga's insightful eye, ultimately takes our breath away and we're led to a point where it's simply impossible not to share in the sorrow of a child, to shed the tears we've experienced and continue to experience as adults, but with the special and deeply painful pangs of recognition that remind of the tears of childhood - those tears that stream down our cheeks and never seem to end.
We can almost taste their salt.
It's a beautiful film.
"Thursday Till Sunday" opens theatrically July 26 via Vagrant Films Releasing and Publicity and plays in Toronto at the Magic Lantern Theatres Carlton Cinema and Kingsway Cinema.