The excellence of Mondays in the Sun (2002) is almost inexpressible & what one needs to bear in mind as more important than any specifics of a review is this: it's a great film acted with an intensely powerful realism.
Because there's no plot to speak of, & because it is inescapably political, almost any description of it will make it sound less than it actually is. And what it is is one of the best acted films you'll ever see, with characters so authentic that it is impossible not to care about each & every one of them.
Javier Bardem as Santa anchors the cast with a richly layered performance. He has the demeanor of a thug but the heart of a cuddly teddy bear, who deeply feels & understands the injustice he & his compatriots have experienced when their union fell into factions & the shipyard closed down, exporting jobs that the port town would never replace. Javier Bardem called him "a beautiful & noble character." As John Lennon would say, "A working class hero is something to be."
A group of men, most of them habitually unemployed, gather regularly in a certain bar, wherein the anguish & lost dreams of their lives are revealed to one another. Their sadness, disappointments & flawed decency really had me liking & worrying about these guys.
Amador, closed off from his compatriots, waiting alone in his apartment for the return of a wife who will never come. Jose's wife Ana struggling with wanting to leave her angry, unhappy husband, who needs her so much. Paulino, greying, too old ever to be employed again, perpetually frightened. These & other portraits are achingly well drawn.
I liked them so much that I enjoyed just seeing them drink, talk, emote, but cinema being what it almost always is, I began to worry they'd start planning a heist & get in deep caca, & I didn't want anything to happen to them that was worse than it was already.
But this film understands itself perfectly, & knows perfectly well that bringing us closer & closer to these men's lives, one by one, is more riveting & engaging than any movie-plot with murders explosions or car chases could've been.
Their simple human greatness is in holding on to their humanity & continuing to care about one another even in light of a world that seems not to care about them. A stunning soundtrack of the sweetest, saddest music fits so well.
But it's no mere sadsack four-hanky soap opera, as there is humor in these lives as well. Even at the saddest moment when one of their own is only a container of ashes, they steal a ferry boat so they can disperse his ashes on the sea -- except somewhere along the drunken night, they lost the ashes, never to be found again.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl