SEMANA SANTA is the story of a family vacation. Dali andChavez (Anajosé Aldrete and Tenoch Huerta) have gone on a weekend getaway with Dali’s son Pepe aka “Pepino” in-tow (Esteban Ávila). The vacation seems like a chance for all three to get some sun and surf while escaping the everyday tedium for a few days, but we soon learn that there are few nagging problems that cannot be escaped. For starters, as many children are, Pepino is a bit of a brat. He thinks nothing of petty theft, nor of sulking when he doesn’t get his way – neither of which make for a great vacation. Beyond that, there’s the way Dali doesn’t quite seem to be over the loss of Pepino’s father, which is a wound she’s not really trying to hide. Finally there’s Chavez who seems to want to play breadwinner and treat the family to this getaway, even though he clearly doesn’t have the means.
Put it all together, and we’re in for one very revealing weekend away from home.
It’s amazing how subtle gestures can have profound meaning, and SEMANA SANTA is a film filled with subtle gestures. For instance, there’s Dali’s choice to continually wear her ex’s tee-shirt (which, amusingly, sports a graphic in the shape of an “X”). It’s a piece of her past she’s not ready to give up yet, even though if she’s trying to build a life with Chavez, she probably should. But then there’s the choice Chavez makes when Pepino points the shirt out to him – he never once confronts Dali about it. Maybe he doesn’t want to argue, or maybe he thinks he’ll lose. Subtle gestures, profound meaning.
Pepino gets in a few of his own before the weekend is out, and they find a whole new gear when he begins to hang around a European girl and her mother. Not only do we watch him get oiled-up with suntan lotion by the European matron (essentially accepting her surrogate motherhood), but we also see him mow into a plate of spare ribs after telling his parents that he has gone vegetarian.
Mercifully, neither of them are around to see the choices he’s making…but that’s also tragic, since both are missing due to getting carried away with their own selfish pursuits.
SEMANA SANTA taps into something very curious that takes place when many of us go away on vacation; we don’t just take vacation from our work or our responsibilities, but seemingly, from our very selves. Children take leave of behaviour, partners take leave of fidelity, and everyone acts just that much more selfish because “they’re on vacation”. This script by Alejandra Márquez Abella magnifies the old addage that if you really want to test your relationship with somebody that you should travel with them. She believes – perhaps quite rightly – that if you really want to understand the strength of your familial bonds, you should plan a family vacation.
Only then will you learn if additional freedom ends up bringing the family unit closer, or if the temptation creates fractures that may lead to bonds breaking once and for all.
SEMANA SANTA is a simple story, a powerful story, and one that takes place in this world far more often than we want to admit. Seek it out, and learn its lesson well.