In a last-ditch effort to save their flailing marriage, Ana and Papá (Paola Giannini and Francisco Pérez-Bannen, who isn't given a proper name) decide to take a road trip with their children, Lucía (Santi Ahumada) and Manuel (Emiliano Freifeld). Papá wishes to show the kids his father’s land in northern Chile, so they leave their home in Santiago at daybreak one Thursday. As they travel north, however, the claustrophobia of the family station wagon sets in, and tensions begin to worsen between the couple. From the back seat, Lucía observes her parents’ frequent arguments, which are, at best, poorly disguised with Spanglish. With each mile they drive, her perception improves, until she finally bursts out, “Come on! I know what you’re talking about.” Yet with her understanding comes a certain loss of innocence, and by Sunday, when the trip comes to a close, Lucía has reached a turning point in her maturity, a moment of decision that mirrors the state of her parents.
One of the most successfully shot sequences is the film’s opening, which is done as a steady one-shot. The noises come in first over an almost black screen – a clock ticking and a hose running – before a light is turned on to reveal a bedroom with a window looking out to a garden, and Papá lifting Manuel from his bed. The camera stays put as the parent and child exit, then reenter the frame outside the window, where Ana waits next to a car half packed with coolers, chairs, and sleeping bags. The parents finish loading the car and drive away. In the entire scene, there is only one spoken line of dialogue: “Are you sure you want me to come?” Ana asks, but receives no reply. The goings-on here are clear enough, but since we don’t yet have faces or names to put to the voice, her words are eerily disembodied, particularly in the dim, early morning light. And still, the camera watches from the bedroom, removed and uninformed, establishing the decentralized perspective this film will take.
This is not to say that there aren’t some truly wonderful moments in the story. Not too far from Santiago, Papá picks up two hitchhikers, teenage girls whom the younger Lucía is clearly enamored with. As the three girls bond in the back seat we can see how Lucía is outgrowing her childhood, as well as what she will soon become. The moment is neither overwrought nor hammered down too hard, and becomes all the more poignant for it.
Although “Thursday Till Sunday” deals with a large and complicated subject, it’s a very quiet and simple film. The dialogue and score are both relatively sparse, and natural lighting provides the only illumination on screen. This bare bones approach allows the film to get into the meat of its story, but it doesn’t take advantage of this until too late in the game. Without a doubt, there are many positive elements: the footage of Chile is beautiful, the characters well fleshed out and relatable, the conclusion powerful. However, watching this film is, at times, as monotonous as driving down the Interstate. [B]