En el Séptimo Día (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
This is a movie that needs to find an audience, En el Séptimo Día is a wonderful, small-scale movie that tells a different story of undocumented immigrants living in Brooklyn.
Writer and director Jim McKay writes thoughtful, meaningful stories and his cast of largely non-professional actors really make this movie soar.
Currently, the film has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and as it rolls out around the country, this is a movie a lot of people should probably watch right now.
You refuse to watch subtitled movies, even if they are great, because (what’s the argument, here?), you don’t like to read your movies?
I’ll try to be nice, but many of the people who could learn a thing or two from watching a tender-hearted story about undocumented immigrants who are making a living in America and participating in their community, simply will ignore movies like these because this doesn’t really fit the narrative.
Come on people. It has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s not a perfect movie, but Jim McKay has made something pretty wonderful. Keep it on your radar.
Very early on in Jim McKay’s En el Séptimo Día (On the Seventh Day), I announced out loud, to no one in particular, how much I appreciate movies like this; movies that offer us stories of American life unlike those we typically see on our movie screens.
McKay’s latest film places us as observers within the world of José (Fernando Cardona), an undocumented Mexican immigrant, working as a bicycle deliveryman for a bustling restaurant. On his one day off, a Sunday, he is the captain of a recreational soccer team, Puebla, who consist of several fellow immigrants, many of which all share a house with him in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Puebla have punched a ticket to their local rec league finals and José is easily their best player. One morning, his boss, Steve (Christopher Gabriel Núñez), informs him that a private party has booked the restaurant for Sunday and every available employee must work the event. With no one available to cover the shift, and José hesitant to tell his boss he cannot work that day, the soccer match and his team’s fortunes hang in the balance.
McKay’s script doesn’t dwell on the superficial elements of José’s story, a strength the movie flexes time and again. José’s wife, Elizabeth (Loren Garcia), is six months pregnant, back home in Mexico, and waiting for José to have enough money to bring her to Brooklyn where they can have their child. With their baby born an American citizen, and his family reunited, José has designs on moving off of the bicycle and into the restaurant itself. Everything is starting to finally come together, but what about Sunday?
Covering a little more than a week, with title cards keeping us in tune with the day’s events, we see a side of the immigration story left out of the daily newspapers and 24-hour cable news cycle. McKay gives us a tangible reality to José’s life and those close to him. We see how careful he must be in keeping his job, the consequences feeling immense if he were to jeopardize anything he has worked for. And even when customers disrespect him or unwittingly set him up to fail, José works hard and never stops biking around Brooklyn, delivering order after order, visiting people everywhere from high-rise corporate office buildings to seedy adult establishments.
McKay’s cast consists of largely non-professional actors, but he has assembled an impressive ensemble of talent. Cardona is wholly believable as José, creating a strong performance that may lack a little polish at times, but never carries an inauthentic moment. Convincingly, we feel every strain and worry, and any success he experiences is fleeting, because there’s always something to do.
McKay could have pivoted politically here very easily, but he gives himself room to avoid doing so. All the legal debates and whataboutisms that are the focal point of the immigration debate in our country are never explicitly mentioned, but hang like a cloud over every scene. With some sly comedy, some congenial scenes of friendship and connection, and Cardona anchoring the film’s subtle message of inclusiveness and kindness, José becomes a character we cheer for.
In the film’s final act, major decisions for José come together in unexpected ways, and a cleverly crafted third act makes the film surprisingly suspenseful.
Movies like En el Séptimo Día can easily get lost in the shuffle, but this is a winning film full of heart, compassion, and integrity. McKay’s script and observational direction make this a movie I wanted to spend more time with. It becomes impossible to not become enamored with José, his community of friends, and wonder how everything turns out for him and his young family.
For those reasons, and the fact it has stayed on my mind in the days since watching it, I think we all could appreciate a great story right now and En el Séptimo Día more than fills that need.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Fernando Cardona, Gilberto Jimenez, Genoel Ramírez, Abel Perez, Donal Brophy, Christopher Gabriel Núñez, Alejandro Huitzil, Donal Brophy.
Director: Jim McKay
Written by: Jim McKay
Release Date: June 8, 2018
The Cinema Guild