Loading...

Los Angeles Film Festival 2012: Narrative Competition 

Thursday, Jun 14 2012
Comments
Thursday Till Sunday

Thursday Till Sunday

The best films in LAFF's narrative competition all take place in the desert or on the road, sometimes both. Dominga Sotomayor's Thursday Till Sunday, for instance, concerns a family of four on what may well be their last road trip together. Sotomayor handles the proceedings of her debut with quiet panache; the way she delves into filial dynamics is as evocative as it is understated. As with a minutes-long opening shot bathed in the soft blue light of early morning, however, it's the visuals that first grab (and hold) one's attention: Nearly every shot is expertly (and strikingly) framed by cinematographer Barbara Álvarez without being distracting or ornate. There's a fluidity between what's on-screen and what we know is on the characters' minds, which makes a number of otherwise placid scenes surprisingly tense. Much of the film takes place inside the car, yet objects move in and out of the frame with such simultaneous grace and naturalism that it's difficult to imagine them being shot in any other way.

None of which would matter if the story weren't gripping in its own right. Seen mainly through the eyes of Lucia (Santi Ahumada), whose parents' relationship is crumbling on this weekend drive through Chile, Thursday Till Sunday is the rare road movie whose most fascinating attractions aren't of the roadside variety. With the deceptive simplicity of its plot comes intimacy, understated drama and even unsettling allusions to regional folklore.

The purpose of the trip is ostensibly to find a piece of land once belonging to Lucia's grandfather, but really it's a solemn last hurrah for the family unit. Sotomayor's directorial approach is subtle, even gestural; she's less interested in drawing a map to a specific end point than in pointing toward the sights and sounds of Lucia's growing realization that her family — and, with it, all their lives — are changing. For this girl to come of age, her parents have to come apart. Sotomayor is sympathetic to her characters, even as she maintains a certain distance from them.

click to enlarge Thursday Till Sunday
  • Thursday Till Sunday

Related Stories

  • Hatch Chile Alert and a Recipe for a Grilled Cheese Hatch Chile Sandwich 2

    Hang onto your hat-ch. New Mexico’s famous Hatch chiles are almost here. The season is short, from early August to the end of September, so you’ll want to get your share before they’re gone. If you’re a Hatch fanatic, you’ll line up with your stash at a chile roasting —...
  • Soccer Sucks 36

    Sure, you bought a USA jersey and all your hipster friends are talking about tactics, ball control and midfield strikers. ESPN's networks are enjoying stellar World Cup ratings. And the BBC says "the U.S. has emerged as the pre-eminent English-speaking football nation at this World Cup." Not to side with Ann Coulter, but she's right...
  • L.A. Teens Fast For Central American Immigrants 2

    When you were a teenager you hung out at the mall, made mixtapes and ate McNuggets. These here L.A. kids are going without food this week to support the children coming to the United States illegally from Central America. The young people "will be drinking water only" through Friday, a...
  • Meth Flood 2

    As if the crystal form of methamphetamine wasn't bad enough, we now have liquid meth, which kills. It's not made for public consumption, but it's a problem. The liquid form of meth is largely smuggled by cartels and drug gangs from Mexico so that it can be turned into "ice" closer...
  • Old-School Mexican Restaurants 36

    Old-school Mexican is a state of mind. Far, far away from farm-to-table, diet fads or the latest trends, this style of cuisine celebrates comfort, plenty and lots of lard. These retro-minded dishes wouldn't be caught dead featuring chia seeds or kale - although it's amusing to remember that the avocado...

Akin to Sideways in miniature, writer-director-star Alex Karpovsky's Red Flag is another road movie, not to mention strangely meta. Playing a fictionalized version of himself, Karpovsky (known for his work in Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture and Girls) at one point explicates the theme of his second feature, Woodpecker, in order to key us in to what this one is about. The self-reference is somewhat incidental, however, as Red Flag ultimately is about second chances — or the lack thereof — and haphazard love and friendship. It's also the funniest film in the competition, by far.

Not as ha-ha funny but always alluringly strange, Arturo Pons' The Compass Is Carried by the Dead Man tells the story of a young boy who gets lost while crossing the Mexico–United States border. A fascinatingly oddball foray into the surreal, the sun-dappled film throws us one oddity after another: a wagon driven by a dead man, children playing soccer with an army helmet, an unexpected funeral procession of mourning women. Its title doesn't appear on-screen for a full 30 minutes, but by that time it has already announced itself in other, more compelling ways — think of it as a bizarre descendant of Stagecoach.

Dead Man's Burden, meanwhile, is far more classical in its approach. First-time director Jared Moshé (an experienced indie-film producer) reveres the genre conventions of the Western (sweeping vistas, shifting loyalties and moral relativism abound) but, despite frequent gunslinging, he's ultimately more concerned with blood ties than bloodshed — or, rather, the commingling of the two. "There's always a better deal," one unsavory character says of the land dispute between two estranged siblings at the center of the film, but neither he nor anyone else has calculated the nonmonetary cost of their dealings. This is a capital-W Western, made better by its sincerity.

Reach the writer at mikenordine@gmail.com

Related Content

Now Showing

  1. Sat 2
  2. Sun 3
  3. Mon 4
  4. Tue 5
  5. Wed 6
  6. Thu 7
  7. Fri 8

    Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

    Sponsored by Fandor

Box Office

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, concert and dining info & more!

Slideshows

  • Emmy-Nominated Costumes on Display
    On Saturday, the Television Academy and FIDM Museum and Galleries kicked off the Eighth Annual exhibition of "The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design" with an exclusive preview and reception party. 100 costumes are featured from over 20 shows representing the nominees of the 66th Emmy Awards. The free to the public exhibition is located downtown at FIDM and runs from today through Saturday, September 20th. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Cowabunga! 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    The COWABUNGA! - 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tribute show opened Friday night at Iam8bit. Guests donned their beloved turtle graphic tees, onesies and a couple April O'Neils were there to report on all the mean, green, fighting machine action. Artist included Jude Buffum, Tony Mora, Nan Lawson, leesasaur, Jim Rucc, Mitch Ansara, Guin Thompson, Stratman, Gabe Swarr, Joseph Harmon, Alex Solis, Allison Hoffman, Jose Emroca Flores, Jack Teagle and more. All photos by Shannon Cottrell.
  • Are Westerns For The Weak? Not According to "Sensei" Martin Kove
    Decades ago, the western film was king, with nearly 100 produced every year at their peak in the 1940s, and their popularity extending years beyond. But today, other than rare successes like Django Unchained or True Grit, the genre is not in great shape. Films such as Cowboys and Aliens and The Lone Ranger failed to spark new interests in the western. It's a tough nut to crack, but veteran movie bad guy Martin Kove -- most well known for his role as Sensei John Kreese in The Karate Kid -- is passionate about the classic American film genre and is trying to revive it. We spent an afternoon at his home talking about westerns and how to make the genre interesting again. All photos by Jared Cowan.

Now Trending