Mondays in the Sun

English Title: Mondays in the Sun

Original Title: Los lunes al sol

Country of Origin: Spain

Studio: Antena 3 Televisión, Elías Querejeta Producciones Cinematográficas, Eyescreen, Mediapro, Quo Vadis Cinéma, Sogepaq, Televisión de Galicia, Via Digital.

Director: Fernando León de Aranoa

Producer(s): Elías Querejeta, Jaume Roures

Screenplay: Fernando León de Aranoa, Ignacio del Moral

Cinematographer: Alfredo Mayo

Art Director: Julio Esteban

Editor: Nacho Ruiz Capillas

Runtime: 113 minutes

Genre: IBERIAN DRAMA

Language: Spanish

Starring/Cast: Javier Bardem, Luis Tosar, José Ángel Egido, Nieve de Medina

Year: 2002

Volume: Spanish / Portuguese

Synopsis:
Laid off at the shipyard where they used to work, several jobless men spend their time at a bar owned by their friend Rico, who bought it with money he received as a settlement when he lost his job. The group’s dominant member is Santa Santamaría, a former welder whose quarrelsome personality gets him into trouble at times. The somewhat older Lino wants badly to find new employment but his applications are always rejected, perhaps due to his aging face and graying hair. José is resentful that his wife has a job when he does not, even though her work requires her to stand all day and this is causing damage to her legs. Amador drinks too much while waiting for his wife to return from a trip that may not be as innocent as she claims. Reina has a new position as security guard at a soccer stadium, but it is less fun than he expected it to be. Serguei, a Russian, passes the time by boasting about how he could have been a cosmonaut if the Soviet Union had not collapsed. The female characters include a supermarket ‘cheese woman’ befriended by Santa as well as José’s wife and Rico’s daughter Nata, a teenager who flirts with Santa while listening patiently to the men’s jokes, complaints, and disagreements, which recur with depressing monotony day after day.
Mondays in the Sun starts with documentary footage of an impassioned labour demonstration that the same director, Fernando León de Aranoa, had shot a few years earlier. The narrative then begins with shots of a ferryboat landing, crowded with passengers, including the men who will be the main characters of the story. By opening the film this way, Aranoa signals that it will view life from a democratic perspective, reflecting the idea that ordinary lives take on extraordinary interest when one observes them carefully and sympathetically. The movie’s promotional tagline carries the same message: ‘This film is not based on a real story. It is based on thousands.’
In keeping with this philosophy, the film centres on everyday characters and mundane events. Desperate to find work, Lino dyes his hair so he will look a little younger, then becomes so nervous that perspiration makes the colouring run down his neck. José and his wife Ana apply for a loan, only to be refused when José erupts in anger at the financial system, which he believes is stacked against him. Reina sneaks his friends into the stadium where he works so they can watch a game, but the view is so bad that it is impossible to tell what is going on. Amador drinks more and more; Sergei talks more and more; and everyone grows increasingly bored and frustrated. Although the film’s main focus is psychological, it also has clear political implications, conveyed through details of the story as well as its overarching theme of economic inequality. Working as a babysitter, for example, Santa reads the fable of ‘The Grasshopper and the Ant’ to a little boy and gets humorously upset about the treatment of the underemployed grasshopper, launching


Critique:
Mondays in the Sun starts with documentary footage of an impassioned labour demonstration that the same director, Fernando León de Aranoa, had shot a few years earlier. The narrative then begins with shots of a ferryboat landing, crowded with passengers, including the men who will be the main characters of the story. By opening the film this way, Aranoa signals that it will view life from a democratic perspective, reflecting the idea that ordinary lives take on extraordinary interest when one observes them carefully and sympathetically. The movie’s promotional tagline carries the same message: ‘This film is not based on a real story. It is based on thousands.’
In keeping with this philosophy, the film centres on everyday characters and mundane events. Desperate to find work, Lino dyes his hair so he will look a little younger, then becomes so nervous that perspiration makes the colouring run down his neck. José and his wife Ana apply for a loan, only to be refused when José erupts in anger at the financial system, which he believes is stacked against him. Reina sneaks his friends into the stadium where he works so they can watch a game, but the view is so bad that it is impossible to tell what is going on. Amador drinks more and more; Sergei talks more and more; and everyone grows increasingly bored and frustrated. Although the film’s main focus is psychological, it also has clear political implications, conveyed through details of the story as well as its overarching theme of economic inequality. Working as a babysitter, for example, Santa reads the fable of ‘The Grasshopper and the Ant’ to a little boy and gets humorously upset about the treatment of the underemployed grasshopper, launching into a lecture about sociopolitical issues that the youngster cannot possibly understand.
The atmosphere of Mondays in the Sun is so natural and spontaneous that one might think the film was partly improvised. In fact, however, it was meticulously planned in advance and the blueprint was closely followed; a supplementary feature on the Lionsgate DVD edition uses a horizontally-split screen to show particular shots along with their corresponding storyboards, and there is little to suggest that the cast or crew significantly deviated from the original design. In this respect, Aranoa’s film recalls the methodology of John Cassavetes, whose carefully-scripted movies often seem improvised to audiences not familiar with his techniques. Mondays in the Sun is also reminiscent of films by Italian neorealist directors such as Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini who flourished in the first decade after World War II, creating richly-emotional stories with the same basic elements found here: minimal plots, ordinary characters, and carefully-detailed settings, costumes, and props. Despite the poignancy of the story, Aranoa rarely lets it lapse into melodrama, and when this does occur the blame usually falls on Lucio Godoy’s music, which does not always sustain the necessary blend of sweetness and sadness.

Author of this review: David Sterritt