Set in Havana, Cuba, this anthology film tells seven individual stories arbitrarily interconnected over the course of a week. Each part is directed by a different director, including Benicio Del Toro and Gaspar Noé, and it’s no surprise to find that not all of the segments (or days of the week as the movie is structured) work, either on their own or as part of the whole package.
When it works it really works, with two or three of the days flowing fantastically and standing on their own as fascinating and compelling miniature stories. The ones which do work include the first story entitled “El Yuma,” which takes place on Monday. Directed by Benicio Del Toro, it follows a young man (played by Josh Hutcherson) who has flown into Cuba to attend a film school programme. He has some time to kill the day before and stays with a local man who also drives him around. The segment is effective in showcasing an outsider, in this case an American, lost in translation but nevertheless trying his best, leading to an awkward encounter that is pitched perfectly.
The others that work include “Jam Session,” taking place on Tuesday, directed by Pablo Trapero and following a film director who’s in town to receive a film festival award. It’s a funny and idiosyncratic little tale that’s weirdly compelling to watch, thanks largely to the performance of Emir Kusturica as the director. And there’s also “Dulce amargo,” set on Saturday and directed by Juan Carlos Tabío, following a woman as she tries to bake things in time for a local celebration all the while unknowing of something her daughter is planning.
Unfortunately that’s where the positives end as the four other segments are a mix of ineffective, boring and bizarre. The Wednesday-set “La tentadión de Cecilia,” helmed by Julio Médem and telling the story of a young singer torn between staying with her current boyfriend or starting a new life and career in Spain, is equal parts melodramatic and indulgent in nature, although offers the most substantial tie-in to another of the segments. The Thursday-set “Diary of a Beginner,” directed by Elia Suleiman, is utterly pointless and pretentious as we follow a man aimlessly wandering around his hotel and the local streets observing people.
Friday’s “Ritual,” directed by the controversial Gaspar Noé (Irreversible, Enter the Void) is striking but nonetheless weird and completely out of sync with the rest of the film. And finally the Sunday-set “La fuente,” is intriguing to begin with but is ultimately plodding and unsatisfying, making points about communitys pulling together to achieve something and religious belief but never in a way that feels substantial.
For at least three out of the seven segments, 7 Days in Havana is a compelling and oddly interesting slice of Havana life but the other four parts cloud any enjoyment as an overall experience. The film’s main issue is that it doesn’t feel connected enough and could have massively benefited with a stronger woven together narrative instead of being seven different stories that are only vaguely (and I stress that word) linked. Anthology films have been done many times before and much better than this.
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7 Days in Havana is released in UK cinemas on July 6th.