Thursday Till Sunday
A beautifully-crafted but directionless Chilean drama about marital strife
This South American drama depicts a four-day cross-country car journey taken by a family, for reasons kept intentionally vague, from the perspective of 12-year old Lucia (newcomer Santi Ahumada), travelling with her parents and little brother Manuel. Debut writer/director Dominga Sotomayor Castillo establishes her modus operandi in the film’s opening moments: it’s the middle of the night and in a long, fixed shot we see Lucia sleeping in bed until her dad comes in, picks her up and carries her out to a car seen through the window. We remain in the room for a few more minutes until the car starts up and drives away. Castillo repeats this unobtrusive, observant approach throughout the film, slowly revealing significant but unnamed tension between the husband and wife, and subtly showing how awareness of this dynamic trickles through to Lucia in the back of the car. Ahumada, in her first film appearance, is completely natural in front of the camera, signalling all that is going on in Lucia’s mind through a dialogue-light performance.
The problem is that the film is such a precisely-composed and well-observed recreation of this type of journey that, as well as provoking admiration at Castillo’s achievement, it ultimately encourages the same kind of glazed-over, seeing-but-not-registering state that overcomes most passengers on long-haul car rides. As swathes of film roll by with little of note happening aside from the occasional cryptic exchange between the parents in the front section of the car, audiences could be forgiven for wondering ‘are we there yet?’ That is, of course, the completely wrong question to be asking of this type of film: there is no ‘there’ to be reached, only the beautifully-created here and now. In this instance however, that is not quite enough.