En el Séptimo Día (On the Seventh Day)
Concerned with football and the immigrant experience, Jim McKay’s En el Séptimo Día is a generally well-observed, somewhat doe-eyed and uncontestably humane study of a poor, hard-working Mexican community in Brooklyn. Among a cast of nonprofessional actors Fernando Cardona delivers a physical, emotionally resolute performance as José, an undocumented migrant who must juggle the dignity of work with the dignity of leisure. If not for a patently absurd final act, this would have been a subtly reflective, albeit gentle, picture.
Sporting a remarkable dead ferret on his head, José is a committed and responsible delivery rider working at a restaurant in Sunset Park. Through heat and rain, he powers down the lesser-seen New York avenues on his bicycle. Wishing to bring over his pregnant wife from Puebla, he maintains a strong work ethic and lofty ambitions. He lives in relative comfort in a small apartment with fellow precarious workers, all from across the border. Somewhat assimilated, they eat burgers rather than tacos and possess basic English skills. Most are unfailingly polite and dignified in the face of ignorant and intolerant customers. The pinnacle of their week is Sunday, the day they play in a local league. The religious implications are obvious. When José’s team reaches the final, his boss tells him he must work during the crucial match. As the captain and best player, José carries his team’s hopes. He must choose between the two: the small but important joy of a hobby, or the means to provide for a budding family. This sounds exceptionally sappy, and although McKay generally tones down the cliché, the politicised, romantic depiction of the Mexican characters stretches credulity.
We’re set up for a final act that is beyond ludicrous. There’s never been a longer 9-a-side match. The poor lineup, containing players who range from the unfit to the supersized, would barely last 20 minutes, let alone the unending torture they’re put through. Meanwhile a well-meaning but inexplicably loyal supporter has a fleeting but crucial role near the end, a white saviour on the most modest scale imaginable. Although notoriously difficult to choreograph and capture adequately, the football scenes are decently shot, conveying the frantic incompetence of amateur weekend leagues. Thankfully, there’s no slow-motion bicycle kick in the last minute to win it. Some of the dialogue is less authentic, however. McKay is clearly interested in the game but provides characters with many unfortunate formulations – “a great play”, “we won’t make the second half” – that will sound awkward to seasoned watchers. But any film that randomly name checks Maxi Rodríguez should be afforded some leniency.
En el Séptimo Día (On the Seventh Day) does not have a UK release date yet.