Star Cinema’s “Seven Sundays” revolves around the story of Bonifacio family, whose patriarch, Manuel, (Ronaldo Valdez) is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Seeing the family he built with his now deceased-wife, falling apart, Manuel has only one dying wish: see his four children together again and reconnected, happy and looking for each other, like when they were still kids.
But time and distance have taken a great toll on his children’s relationships which have been mostly strained by insecurities and pride among them.
His eldest, Allan (Aga Mulach), is a struggling father trying to make ends meet for his own family. Bryan (Dingdong Dantes), the middle child, who in spite of being the most successful, harbors bitterness towards Allan, whom he thinks has remained his father’s favorite. Cha (Cristine Reyes), now a mother of three, tries to hide her malfunctioning marriage, and Dexter (Enrique Gil), the youngest, keeps himself distant from the family he thinks abandoned him.
They are forced to reconcile under the same roof, and as they try to grant their dying father’s wish, a recollection of their history and some assessment of where they are and have gone as a family, are inevitably ensued.
Almost expectedly, “Seven Sundays” runs through a structure that is not foreign to its genre. It is predictable, unimaginative, and gets in its dramatic and comedic moments overly sensationalized. This flaw barely undermines the narrative’s overall entertainment value but it somehow deprives the film the knack to arrive to a sensible resolution.
The film exaggerates both the emotionally heavy and funny proceedings of its script to solicit tears and chuckles, which to be fair, are mostly earned, but sometimes fall in the wrong places. It then creates an over-sized heft, which may not be necessary, but thoroughly effective in delivering the motives of the film.
At some point, gentle moments get overshadowed by big climactic sequences, but this is fine as they propel the narrative to getting all its ample sentiments across. Admirably, emotional segments of the film are almost equally distributed to its five leads, each one given enough moment to make their characters shine.
But Dingdong Dantes has arguably emerged as the strongest performer. There is a powerful exchange of accusations and revelation of insecurities among the siblings, where Bryan bares his bitter struggle to prove himself and his worth in the family. Throughout this utterly compelling conflict, Dantes surfaces with a dignified maneuver of his character, handling its emotional complexity with ease and eloquence–its result result, no less than a moving performance.
Enrique Gil’s Dexter has practically the same baggage. He struggles to connect to the members of his family whom he feels left him when he was in need of someone to guide him through growing up. As anticipated, every member of the family has to survive the pains of growing up, but it is growing apart that proves to be more damaging to the Bonifacio family, and it is more evident in Dexter. Gil provides a commanding delivery of his character that is deeply bruised by his parent-less childhood.
Aga Mulach and Cristine Reyes also shine in their respective scenes. Muhlach still illustrates brilliance in his dramatic exchanges with Dantes, and owns some of the most heartwarming family moments in the film, most strikingly the ones with his son. Cha as the family’s “only princess”, is evidently the most fragile. Cristine carries out her character with a palpable commitment to what it demands, and comes out capable getting all her relatable sentiments across.
But then, all these characters radiate around Manuel, played by Ronaldo Valdez ,who has singularly maintained his dramatic genius throughout the film. Valdez shares the biggest chunk of the comic effort of the film, but he shines best during those scary moments when he begins to understand what looms in his family’s horizon. His struggle as a father trying to keep the foundations of his already rattled family makes his character accessible, hence it emerges as the most relatable element of the film.
For what it’s worth, while “Seven Sundays” struggles to abandon the conventions of its genre, this Cathy Garcia-Molina-helmed family drama turns out to be actually memorable. Its utter earnestness to relate a familiar story moves the film to levels that is bracing enough to capture audience and tug at their heartstrings. With its poignant sentiments about family, it hits right in the heart, and for that, “Seven Sundays” is exceptional.