Short Takes: En el Séptimo Día

(Jim McKay, USA, Cinema Guild, Opening June 8)

Jim McKay’s first feature in 13 years embeds us with a Brooklyn restaurant deliveryman (Fernando Cardona) as he hustles around town to make a living. His customers can be obnoxious or oblivious, the weather can be bad, and the blindsiding car doors can be worse, but Jose soldiers on, with the slim margin of error and profit that has powered many a neorealist and neo-neorealist tick-tock drama ever on the edge of crisis.

Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou’s Take Out covered similar ground (or pavement) in 2004, but McKay, after years in television, retains his feel and eye for the dignity in gestures big and small. The most significant decision, besides casting the sympathetic Cardona, is the choice of story: the conflict is simply that Jose wants to play in soccer league finals with his buddies on his day off, Sunday, when his boss has conscripted him for a private party. That’s not a life-or-death choice—paying for his pregnant wife to cross over from Mexico might be—but that’s part of McKay’s point: it’s taken for granted that Jose has the right to fun and rest, flying in the face of the blame-the-worker “self-reliance” arguments of political debates.

Jose’s bike rides and drop-offs show how free everyone can be with indifference, pissiness, and yes, decency. The plot does set up a somewhat silly sitcom-ish contrivance at the end, and Cardona’s comrades are thumbnail sketches, but none of that ruins the film’s on-the-go glimpse of a life.