‘Seven Sundays’: Five-year hiatus ends with Aga’s triumphant comeback
Seven Sundays” is unabashedly “mainstream.” But, in director Cathy Garcia-Molina’s latest tearjerker, that isn’t always a bad thing. The three-hanky drama is melodramatic, easy to predict, and many of its scenes are proficiently staged to make viewers weep buckets—but, as with its lead actors, its heart is in the right place.
The beating of “Seven Sundays’” heart will lead viewers to the thespic ace up its star-studded sleeve—Aga Muhlach, who makes his triumphant comeback after a five-year hiatus.
He was last seen on the big screen in 2012’s “Of All the Things,” with Regine Velasquez.
The 48-year-old actor keeps his film’s occasionally cringe-inducing excesses at bay and convincingly holds its shaky sections together.
Aga isn’t just “jowly,” as our dear NUT (Inquirer Entertainment columnist Nestor U. Torre) puts it. He is still handsome as heck but, at the same time, he’s a hefty sight to behold—especially beside the fit-as-a-fiddle, bida-kontrabida character portrayed by the dashing Dingdong Dantes to raffish perfection.
Aga’s “excess baggage” is magnified even further by the film medium’s ability to make everything and everyone it focuses its lens on larger-than-life—and larger-than-“large.”
So, we hope Aga doesn’t raise the white flag in his battle with the pesky bulge.
Be that as it may, unlike many heartthrobs who have once been paragons of “physical pluperfection,” who are then left with nothing much to offer after they succumb to the cruel ravages of time, wear-and-tear and abuse, Aga has never relied on his swoon-worthy good looks alone.
“Seven Sundays” is a classic case of talent trumping “beauty”—and flabs. Aga’s exquisitely limned portrayal is instructive for teleserye-weaned actors who bank on skill more than the ability to show empathy.
Tough row to hoe
Aga’s latest dramatic outing is a tough row to hoe, though: He plays Allan Bonifacio, a cash-strapped former OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) who has “let himself go” after failing to live up to everybody’s high expectations of him.
Allan and his siblings—who include the overachieving Bryan (Dingdong), the problematic housewife Cha (Cristine Reyes) and troubled social-media influencer Dex (Enrique Gil)—are forced to come together when their father, Manuel (Ronaldo Valdez), is diagnosed with lung cancer, on the day he celebrates his 69th birthday alone! The lonely widower is given approximately two months to live.
Overcome with guilt, Manuel’s quarrelsome children then decide to temporarily sweep their differences under the rug and “conspiratorially” agree to make their “dying” father’s last seven Sundays extra special, by giving him the “happiest sendoff” they could possibly “arrange.”
Then, the siblings realize that spending time with family—which they avoided for 16 years, following the death of their mother—isn’t as awkward and painful as they initially thought it would be.
The movie may be emotionally manipulative, with silly comic sequences incorporated into it to leaven its emotionally charged sections, but what the film isn’t is a screen drama you can easily dismiss, because it does what it has set out to do well that you let its surplus of schmaltz and contrivances slide. Its scenes, temperament and issues are distinctly Pinoy, each staged with conviction and relative flair.
Aga’s heft may be distracting to fans who are accustomed to his dreamboat persona but, call it “accentuating the positive,” the actor quickly puts that “visual distraction” to good use by turning a perceived liability into an incorruptible asset.
With as much understated grace as dramatic gumption, Aga uses it to generate empathy and understanding for his down-on-his-luck character. He makes viewers cry, but each line he delivers and every tear shed are well-earned and deeply appreciated.
To be fair, “Seven Sundays” isn’t a one-actor thespic affair. With a performance that is just as compelling, Dingdong benefits from spot-on casting, which gives him elbow room to grow as an actor. It brings out his edge and allows him to expand his range.
For her part, Cristine insightfully veers away from the akting na akting style common in sudsy melodramas like this.
On the actress’ able shoulder, Cha may be a victim of an emotionally abusive husband, but Cristine refuses to dumb her character down by allowing her never-say-die spunk to come fighting and shining through.
Sadly, Enrique doesn’t have his coactors’ consistency and dramatic perspicacity to rise above those aggrieved, hush-puppy eyes. Having said that, Ken is 23 years Aga’s junior, so he has enough time to shake off his knee-jerk acting impulses and step out of the stultifying limitations of being stuck in a popular pakwela and pakilig love team.
Ronaldo and the lovely but underutilized Donita Rose (as Aga’s pregnant wife, Betchay) also manage to prove they’re not just pretty faces on “Seven Sunday’s” storytelling canvas that Aga and company can conveniently utilize to move their respective tales forward.
The film has long and “explicatory” confrontation scenes that sometimes go on and on—and weighs down its cohesive dramatic impact.
But, if you want some form of catharsis from unsettled scores and little-discussed issues with your loved ones, give the movie a shot, because it will remind you that the most significant ties in life are also the hardest to break.
We may not always get what we want in life, but there will always be other opportunities to seize—and chances to make things right.
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