The film opens with a beautiful montage that poignantly shows the Bonifacio family growing over the years. There are no faces except for those in old photographs, and yet one understands the story behind it. We soon meet the patriarch, Manuel, a widower and former barangay official, full of energy and charismatic at 69 years old.
He is celebrated by the members of his closely-knit provincial community and every person he runs into offers a gesture of kindness. Everyone showers him with attention; everyone except his children, that is. Manuel, played by Ronaldo Valdez, soon learns that he is sick with barely two months to live, and only seven Sundays to spend with his children and grandchildren. There seems to be a question about due diligence on the writers’ part.
How could a man look like he’s in the brightest pink of health if he’s seven weeks away from dying? Where’s the doctor explaining Manuel’s condition in full detail, flowing with medical terms? As the story progresses, it becomes evident that it’s barely necessary.
The plot centers on the family and the stories of each family member. With that alone, there’s already a lot of ground to cover. Manuel’s four children lead busy lives of their own, but are forced to spend their weekends with their ailing father. Each sibling has a problem he or she is hiding from the rest of the family.
Their problems are common to many adults of this generation, and it’s easy to find yourself in one, two, or even all of them— if your memory serves you right. Allan, Bryan, Cha and Dexter represent the challenges many of us go through as adults, and this is part of the movie’s irresistible charm: its ability to mirror who we are or who we were at some point in our life.
Effective portrayal is a key element in this film. At first, we think Enrique Gil is merely reflecting his public persona—that of popular and idolized millennial—but he sets us straight by dropping that self-assured stance and showing a more sensitive side to his character.
It isn’t the first time Cristine Reyes has played someone’s wife in a movie, but it’s probably the first we’ve seen her utterly deglamorized and where redemption isn’t achieved through a makeover. As Cha, Cristine shows that she has graduated from being a sexy star, and can now segue into more seriously dramatic roles moving forward.
Bryan, the second born, is an overachiever with a lot to prove, but with a painful secret that he tries to mask with calculated indifference. He’s arrogant and insensitive, and Dingdong Dantes’ convincing portrayal makes it easier for us to dislike him, at first. Later on, he becomes more than just some cocky businessman and delivers a compelling performance as a man of strong character despite repressed emotional struggles, and does so with incredible depth.
Aga Muhlach’s Allan is far from the dreamboat we’ve grown accustomed to seeing him portray. As a middle-aged father with a failing business, Aga, like Cristine, doesn’t have that special, superficial packaging that would save him from a sloppy performance, if need be. He doesn’t need saving, however, and proves that he also doesn’t need to be in top physical form to gather our sympathy and melt our hearts. It’s a sign that he can embrace his age and graduate from heartthrob roles if he chooses, deliver an endearing performance, and still be the man of our dreams.
Aga is nowhere past his prime; on the contrary, he seems to be getting better with age, if this comeback vehicle is any indication. There appears to be quite a few sidebar stories within the plot, but it’s fascinating how they all gel together without leaving anyone out.
There are quite a few comedic moments propelled by Ronaldo Valdez and Ketchup Eusebio’s presence, but it’s also the veteran actor’s scenes that stir the most emotions in the film. He is a representation of our fears and our regrets, of what we could and should have done.
The comedic elements are familiar and the formula is present in most Pinoy comedies, adding to the film’s entertainment value, and giving viewers room to recover from their tears. “Seven Sundays” successfully balances comedy with the dramatic elements throughout most of the film, but falters at keeping this balance towards the end.
The final scene lends truth to the saying less is more and impinges on the film’s artistic value. Too much of this tacky brand of comedy for the sake of entertainment is an eyesore on the film’s otherwise beautiful terrain. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes heartwarming; sincere and often too close to home. Overall, “Seven Sundays” is an exceptionally beautiful film that captivates the audience with a well-written script, entertaining sequences, memorable performances, and an evocative message that plunges deep into our consciousness.
The movie will be shown in CANADA starting October 27, 2017. Watch out for details.
J.T Radovan, Interaksyon