7 Days In Havana (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner06/07/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 129 mins

Lively, beautifully shot anthology drama in which, inevitably, some sections are stronger than others, though it's also slightly too long, lacks depth and never really comes together in a satisfying fashion.

What's it all about?
7 Days in Havana is an anthology drama set in Havana, with directors Benecio Del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Medem, Elia Suleiman, Gaspar Noe, Juan Carlos Tabio and Laurent Cantet taking it in turns to tell a short story for each day of the week.

On Monday, an American actor (Josh Hutcherson) arrives in Havana to begin film school and is taken on a bar-hopping tour by a friend (Vladimir Cruz); on Tuesday, Serbian director Emir Kusturica (playing himself) wanders around in a drunken haze before accepting an award at a film festival and persuading his driver (Alexander Abreu) to allow him to tag along on his jazz band's jam session; on Wednesday a beautiful Cuban singer (Melvis Estevez) tries to decide if she should leave her failed baseball player boyfriend (Leo Benitez) for the offer of singing in Madrid for a Spanish club owner (Daniel Bruhl); on Thursday, a near-silent Palestinian (Elia Suleiman) observes his surroundings; and on Friday, a young woman (Cristela De La Caridad Herrera) is forced into a ritual to cure her lesbian tendencies.

The Good
The performances are excellent, particularly Josh Hutcherson, Melvis Estevez and Mirta Ibarra, whose segments are the most engaging. Similarly, each of the shorts is beautifully shot, conveying a strong sense of place through the combined use of authentic locations, lively Cuban music and sound design (the deafening crash of the waves breaking in Suleiman's short is a definite highlight). In fact, the sound throughout is extremely impressive, with Suleiman's short working almost like a Jacques Tati silent and Noe's section achieving a powerful, intense atmosphere through lack of dialogue and pounding drums on the soundtrack.

The Bad
The main problem is that the short film format and seven day structure means that there isn't quite enough time to explore the stories in any depth, while also frustrating that we revisit some characters in different segments but not others; it's also fair to say that the film is maybe two days too long and might have benefited from five longer stories. On a separate note, there are no subtitles for the songs Estevez sings in Wednesday's section, which is a mistake, as they provide important commentary on her actions that will be missed by non Spanish-speaking audiences.

Worth seeing?
While not perfect, this is still a lively, watchable anthology drama that's a step up from the likes of I Love Paris/New York.

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7 Days In Havana (15)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 12:32

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