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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 8, 2017

Seven Sundays Movie Review: Perfect Example Of How A Decent Film With Valid Issues Can Be Ruined And Cheapened By One Dumb Scene

‘SEVEN SUNDAYS’ is a pleasant alternative to the countless romance flicks that saturate local cinema these days. It is being compared to the Hollywood film “Everybody’s Fine” and to Laurice Guillen’s “Tanging Yaman” but this is quite unfair. “Everybody’s Fine” is more akin to Lino Brocka’s 1977 “Inay” where the late Alicia Vergel visited her four negligent children in the city one by one, which is what Robert de Niro did in “Everybody’s Fine”. It’s also unfair to compare it to the award-winning “Tanging Yaman”, which is definitely far more superior.

This film could have had a lot of class, but it deliberately chose to take a nosedive with a cringe-worthy ending that reminds us of the works of M. Night Shyamalan, who has made a career of giving botched endings to his films.

But we have to concede that when the film chooses to be a serious family drama, it can be quite affecting and surely has it has own merits. Ronaldo Valdez gives a splendid portrayal as Manuel, a widower who learns he has two months to live, so he requests his four kids to spend the remaining Sundays of his life together as a family.

He’s not exactly a doting father to his kids as there was a time he worked abroad and his kids just wrote him letters, lots of them, that they deposited in a can that will be resurrected later on for a heartwarming scene of family bonding that aims to tug at your heartstrings.

The eldest kid, Allan, is played by Aga Muhlach who, in this film, graduates from the usual romantic lead roles he played before. He plays a former dancer abroad who now manages a small grocery store in their home province. He’s overweight, sports salt and pepper hair, and he doesn’t mind as this suits his role perfectly. He is married to Donita Rose and they have three kids. Another one is on the way.

Dingdong Dantes is Brian, the second son who’s more financially successful as a business executive in Manila. He’s single, feels unappreciated, and has a deep dark secret that will be revealed as the film goes on. He and Aga have a deep-seated sibling rivalry, giving them lots of opportunities for emotionally charged confrontations.

Cristine Reyes is Cha, the only daughter. She married early and her family does not approve of her philandering husband (Kean Cipriano). Enriquel Gil is Dexter, the ‘bunso’, who feels out of place in their family as his siblings have flown from their nest by the time he was growing up. Their mom has died and he also feels disconnected with their dad.

In the course of the narrative, there will be confrontations, recriminations, reconciliations, some of which are real tearjerkers and touched the right emotional buttons for us. And in all fairness to the actors, the drama scenes are all well interpreted. Everyone is given his own shining moment and they all make the most of it in this fine ensemble movie.

The best scene for us is when Aga visits Dingdong in his condo to patch things up between them. They’re both superb in this movie. What we don’t understand is why director Cathy Garcia Molina does not have full trust in the depth and validity of her material that deals with serious family issues and conflicts and which she has also dealt with before in “Four Sisters and a Wedding”.

You don’t see Laurice Guillen pandering to the crowd in “Tanging Yaman” by offering some obnoxious comic relief. It’s okay for a filmmaker to include some comic breather in a dramatic film, but this has to come naturally, not forcing through, like what happened in this movie.

The casting of so many comedians in this film (Ketchup Eusebio, Kakai Bautista, Jeffrey Tam, Ryan Bang) is a clear indication that Molina wants to have scenes that are calculated to please the crowd. But honestly, none of these comedians succeeded in making us laugh.

Ketchup as Ronaldo’s sidekick often gets on the way of the narrative, like in the sequences where he’s trying to make all sorts of excuses to delay Ronaldo from getting home while his kids are preparing a surprise get together him. We don’t think Ronaldo is that stupid or dense not to detect the truth in his supposedly procrastinatory comic tactics.

Kakai is always shown in heat whenever her boss Dingdong is around. Unfortunately, she is not even funny but pathetic. Jeffrey Tam as the buffoonish businessman who wants to buy Aga’s store so he can make it a parking lot is likewise not funny but annoying.

But the most atrocious scene is the finale, showing all the members of the cast doing a one-on-one dance showdown with the cartoonish Ryan Bang who’s just so beneath them in terms of talent or stature. Folks may debate whether or not this final sequence is a bad idea, but the execution just leaves you scratching your head when you should be feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the scene before it, where all the family members get to iron out their problems and are happily reunited.

The film could have ended with that feel good scene. Instead, we are given a sequence where the cast clowns around and leaves quite a mess, cheapening and diminishing the movie as a whole, ultimately negating all the satisfying scenes that precede it. It’s just over the top, tasteless, and not the least bit clever.

Of all the things that could be unnecessarily shoehorned into a movie to give it a more upbeat conclusion, this jarring eyesore of an ending makes it look like the movie is hit by a missile. And this just sucks when the film is quite well made in some ways. What a way to wrap things up for a movie where you’ve already invested a lot of honest emotions.

Did Molina really think this supposedly funny ending is the most fitting way of concluding her movie? Sorry, but whatever she thought she was accomplishing with this scene was not achieved, sacrificing substance for crowd pleasing. It just hardly makes any sense after all the poignant character-building moments she did in previous scenes, a perfect example of how a decent movie can be shattered by just one dumb scene.