Dominga Sotomayor’s Chilean road movie Thursday Till Sunday is a beguiling and tender children’s-eye-view of a changing adult world.
Thursday Till Sunday
Any Day of the Week by Laura Bennett
Young Chilean director, Dominga Sotomayor’s debut Thursday Till Sunday (De Jueves A Domingo) tells the story of a family holiday-cum-road trip and was included at the 2012 BFI London Film Festival in the Journey category. Told predominantly from the perspective of ten-year-old Lucia, she and her seven-year-old brother Manuel are loaded into the back of the car in the middle of the night by their parents. As they set off heading north from Santiago along Chile’s spine, the seemingly endless hours of driving are filled with increasingly unimaginative games of eye spy and sing-alongs. Long fixed camera shots and interiors reflected through the car windows manage to cleverly convey the monotony and movement of the journey, and the sense of confinement felt by the children, contrasting with the freedom of the wide-open expanses outside.
The boredom is temporarily relieved by the occasional stop at a service station, the brief arrival of two young female hitch-hikers and a visit to a roadside shrine. As the journey continues, it becomes clear that all may not be well between their parents. Snatched half-whispered conversations and sideways comments made in English so that the kids can’t understand proliferate as the tension mounts in the car. At one stage en route, the children are treated to a ride on the car’s roof, something the director recalls being allowed to do as a child. Looking down through the windscreen at their parents below, their mother and father’s awkwardness with one another is palpable, at least to grown-up eyes.
The naturalness of the children’s dialogue and the spontaneity of their reactions is no coincidence. Sotomayor chose not to allow them access to the script before shooting in order to make the most of their take on the unfolding story, something made all the more real by their lack of a professional acting background. Cramped conditions within the car, the children’s energy and the constantly rising temperatures seemingly made filming a tricky prospect but this is all masked by the delicately worked imagery and careful lighting. Lucia, Santi Ahumada, delivers a subtle and intelligent performance belied by her youth and lack of experience.
Still young, at just 26, Sotomayor speaks of Thursday Till Sunday as an attempt to recapture the essence of childhood, like looking at an old photograph or dredging up a distant memory that can’t be repeated. She also relates this to her own formative years, “I think all my work comes from my childhood not just because I like kids but also because of the way I was thinking when I was little. I was really complex and very shy, so I was observing the people around me. Thursday Till Sunday is skilful and masterfully nuanced. Although the storyline is gentle and slow to develop, the director’s clever control matched by the skill of the actors, both young and old, makes this a promising debut from a director at the forefront of Chile’s new, less political and more personal approach to cinema.
Thursday Till Sunday is released on April 5th 2013 in the UK