The Beautiful Game gets a beautiful movie with En el Séptimo Día

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      Starring Fernando Cardona. In English and Spanish, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable

      Maybe God can afford to rest on the seventh day, but for the Mexican-born helpers in the restaurants, flower shops, and bodegas of Brooklyn, Sunday means futbol!

      Beautifully told, without a hint of Hollywood gloss and using a mostly nonprofessional cast, En el Séptimo Día centres on José (Fernando Cardona), a bike-delivery guy for a classy Mexican restaurant. It’s unclear what his legal status is, but the men he hangs out with at an overcrowded but lively apartment, all from his part of Puebla, Mexico, have a generalized anxiety about their paperwork. (The film was made in 2016, before anxiety turned to terror.)

      His young wife, pregnant with their first child, is due to join him in New York, and he’s been at his job long enough that he’s due to be promoted to a better position. José’s big problem, when we meet him for what will turn out to be one eventful week, is that his boss (Christopher Gabriel Núñez) needs him to work the following Sunday—normally his day off—when he’s hoping to lead his soccer team of fellow Poblanos to victory in finals against another amateur team of Mexican expats. A handsome, gentle fellow with a deceptively severe haircut, José is their best player. And when another team member sustains an injury that will keep him from playing, he sets out to find a couple of subs while mollifying his boss, friends, and coworkers. Sometimes, a game is more than a game.

      There are some jerk moves here and there, but no real villains, and that’s it for dramatic conflicts in this judiciously low-key film. The naturalistic settings, pace, and acting belie the fact that writer-director Jim McKay has an advanced degree in big-budget TV drama, having helmed many episodes of The Good Wife, Treme, In Treatment, and the various Law & Order iterations. His three previous features (the most recent from 14 years ago) all dealt with the higher aspirations of working-class people in multiethnic America. Reportedly, this project came from him getting to know young immigrants in his own neighbourhood, listening to their stories, and workshopping them as actors.

      Among the cast, our lead is quietly charismatic, but Abel Perez, who plays José’s most hotheaded teammate, seems ready for prime time. Also look for Veracruz singing star Zenén Zeferino Huervo, who gets the last word in this bittersweet love letter to everyone working eight days a week to make a home away from home.