Taking the cinematic conventions of the road movie and weaving them into an intimate portrayal of a family on the brink of breakup, Thursday Till Sunday (De jueves a domingo, 2012) is a well-acted and heartfelt coming-of-age tale. Ten year-old Lucia (Santi Ahumada) and younger brother Manuel (Emiliano Freifeld) set off on a trip with their parents across an arid, picturesque Chilean countryside for a long weekend of camping. Unbeknownst to the children, their parents are at an emotional crossroads, and the dissolution of their marriage grows increasingly clear as the four of them venture further into the landscape.
Director Dominga Sotomayor shows an admirable restraint with her debut feature. The sparse plot sees much of the action occur from within the car, offering a secluded, internal quality. We witness events mainly from Lucia’s point of view and we’re kept out of the inner turmoil felt by the parents, and offered only little clues as to the reasons behind their estrangement. This is the intention of the director, of course, and as Lucia’s parents attempt to put on a stoic disguise of togetherness to ensure the kids have fun, there’s an inherent sadness as we realise that the trip represents an ending of sorts, contradicting the bright, bleached out milieu (courtesy of Argentine cinematographer Bárbara Álvarez).
Thursday Till Sunday may be a little low on drama and incident (there’s a slight simmering tension when the family spend the night encamped with an old friend of Lucia’s mother and his son) but Sotomayor has a way of engaging the viewer throughout the entire journey. This is due, in part, to the terrific turns by the kids, both of whom give lovely, unaffected performances, with Ahumada in particular (apparently a friend of the director’s young sister) offering a sensitive and astute turn, as she’s asked to ostensibly carry the film.
Those enjoying the current resurgence of neorealist cinema will immediately find much to appreciate and connect with Thursday Till Sunday. The 28-year-old Sotomayor shows a foresight beyond her years, and clearly isn’t afraid to allow a little time to establish her characters and their world. It’ll be interesting to see where she points her considered, quietly probing lens next time around.