En el Séptimo Día

Sunday, Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NY. It is the semi-final game for the Puebla futbol team and, only minutes before the end of the tied-scored match, key player Artemio (Genoel Ramirez), is injured. With just seconds left to play, team captain Jose (Fernando Cardona) steals the ball and scores the win! The next day, it is back to the daily grind as the teammates plan for the big championship “En el Septimo Dia (On the Seventh Day).”

Laura's Review: B+

A group of undocumented Mexican immigrants living in Brooklyn's Sunset Park share cramped living quarters and work hard as delivery people, construction workers, busboys, dishwashers and unlicensed vendors six days a week. But Sundays are for soccer and Puebla team captain José (Fernando Cardona) has led them to a semi-final victory in their local league. But on the Monday before the final game, José's boss Steve (Christopher Gabriel Núñez) informs him he'll need all hands on deck for a private party "En el Séptimo Día." Fourteen years after his last movie, writer/director Jim McKay ("Our Song"), who has been busy directing television episodes, returns with a thoroughly charming crowd pleaser that couldn't be more timely. With the World Cup having just taken place and a zero tolerance immigration policy a hot issue in the U.S., "En el Séptimo Día" is a warm embrace of the powerless in the summer of 2016. Inspired by personal experience and Robert Smith's book 'Mexican New York,' McKay spent over a year looking for non actors from Puebla, gathering his cast for games of football (soccer) before assigning specific roles. Cardona, sporting a Mexican Mayan mohawk, is a natural in the lead, his love of his sport wrestling with a responsible work ethic beneath a calm demeanor. José shields his team from the news, spending the week leading up to the game desperately searching for a solution. He cannot afford to lose a job that he both likes and needs in order to bring his expectant wife Elizabeth (Loren Garcia) to the U.S. where their child can be born a U.S. citizen. But while José pushes everyone to look for 2-3 substitute players, ostensibly to replace the injured Artemio (Genoel Ramírez), his team isn't worried, confident in his superior skills leading them to victory. As the days of the week pass, we follow José's everyday struggles, dealing with inconsiderate customers, attending church meetings and dealing with even tighter quarters when a roommate's nephew arrives. Steve is both annoyed and grateful when José swaps Artemio into a dishwashing position, the dishwasher having taken on Artemio's more physically demanding job, but he refuses to consider a Sunday replacement for José himself. Steve's restaurant manager Lisa (Mathia Vargas) is disdainful when she hears José's reason, reminding him of the opportunities Steve's job affords (José has gushed to Elizabeth that he will be leaving delivery for the more glamorous 'floor,' where he will bus tables). Another player is lost when cotton candy vendor Paco runs from the cops. José may operate like a mini-mayor, juggling concerns of one and all, but on Saturday night he finally 'fesses up. McKay signals just what the Pueblas are up against, the vibrant marine blue uniforms of the Chinantlas visually overpowering the dull grays of the Pueblas. As José begins a busy restaurant day, the Pueblas begin to fall until one of them has an unconventional idea, assisted by bystander Elmer (Gilberto Jimenez). This is a small movie, but a real one, a look at immigrant life that focuses as much on joy as it does on hardship like one of those human interest stories that go viral. McKay makes a common sight, that of a bicycle deliveryman, a standout by again using color, José cycling through the rain with a plastic poncho billowing about him. He just may end up as one of the year's most memorable characters. Grade:

Robin's Review: B

Multi-talented filmmaker Jim McKay takes his camera and team of non-actor actors to the streets of Brooklyn and tells a realistic slice of life tale. Jose, Artemio and six (or seven?) roommates, undocumented aliens, are trying to make money to send to their families in Mexico. Jose, though, has plans to bring his six-month pregnant wife, Elisabeth (Loren Garcia), to Brooklyn so their daughter can be born as an American citizen. The Pueblas, with the championship match just days away, are dealt a serious blow. Jose’s boss, restaurant owner Steve (Christopher Gabriel Nunez), orders his entire staff to give up their next Sunday to work a private party. Jose tries to persuade Steve for the time off and the answer is – work or lose your job. This sets the stage for a charming, believable story that does not exactly go in the direction you expect, even though it goes the way I hoped. (That I hope for an outcome in a movie is high praise.) I invested myself in the people on screen, especially first-among-equals Fernando Cardona leading the cast as Jose. The story is mostly from Jose’s POV but all of the characters, his roommates and fellow workers, feel genuine. Jim McKay uses his on-location sets to good effect - the cramped apartment, the demands of employers and the hectic workplace are the day-to-day lives of these workers. But, that special day, Sunday, is reserved for the one thing they can do that they love – play futbol. This passion is the balm for their toils of the previous six days. Then, the bomb is dropped and the story unfolds in a week in the life of Jose and his friends. We have seen many underdog-turned-champion-against-all-odds movies over the decades, so making it feel fresh and new is a tough task. Writer-director and his cast and crew make it just that. I rooted for all of the characters in this charming little play, not just Jose, and, despite their hard scrabble, there is joy.