Mondays in the Sun (Los
lunes al sol) was a clear winner in the 2003 Goya Awards, Spain's equivalent of
the Academy Awards: this somber meditation on unemployment, hopelessness, and
the struggle to make a living took the prizes in the Best Picture, Best
Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best New Actor categories, as
well as Best Film at the San Sebastian International Film Festival.
Mondays in the Sun is
not a narrative-focused film; it's clear fairly early on that it's a slice of
life, a snapshot of a group of people in a particular situation. The early
portion of the film allows us to get to know the main characters and get a
sense of the frustration of their lives. Though the background of the labor
struggle at the shipyards is in fact based on occurrences in France rather than
in Spain, the setting in Galicia (on Spain's northern coast) feels natural.
There's certainly a sense that the six friends are, to a certain degree,
trapped in their situation by the cold hand of the economy, but we also see
that inertia and their own lack of initiative have a large part to play.
As the story develops, the
pressure increases, and we see several of the friends' struggles with their
situation come to a head. But we are just looking in through a window on these
people's lives, not following them to any conclusion; the slightly odd final
scene seems to suggest that while the friends are ready to take risks and start
afresh, they're really still in the same rut as before.
I couldn't help but think that
the characters of Mondays in the Sun are highly dysfunctional people.
Most of them are unemployed, and their efforts to better their situation range
from nonexistent to ineffectual. Lino (José Ángel Egido), the only one who
seems to be making any effort at all, is faced with the very real threat of age
discrimination, but his response is to focus on the superficial aspect of the
problem (his age) rather than the real one (his skills). José (Luis Tosar) has
trouble with the fact that his wife Ana (Nieve de Medina) is the only one with
a job. Santa (Javier Bardem) struggles to redefine his acts of petty vandalism
as a meaningful statement of his sense of oppression and the injustice of the
economic system, while shrugging off the idea that he should take
responsibility for his own situation. All of them gather to drink and idle the
time away, with every day just like any other. Yet what's unsettling about the
situation is that these "dysfunctional" characters are very realistic
and very normal... how many of the productive, gainfully employed people whom
you know would fall apart under the pressure of being unemployed and feeling
Mondays in the Sun is,
above all, a highly realistic film. It's not sugar-coated in any way, nor
stylized, nor dressed up for the screen; its characters are completely
believable, speaking and acting exactly as they would in reality, without
concessions for the film environment. In this stark realism, Mondays in the
Sun has a similar tone to an earlier Goya award winner, El Bola;
although I found El Bola to be the more compelling of the two, if you
enjoyed one you will certainly find the other worth watching as well. And while
the complete lack of a narrative focus means that Mondays in the Sun
doesn't have much of a "hook" to draw viewers in, this same quality
makes it very re-watchable.
Mondays in the Sun
appears in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, and is anamorphically
enhanced. The image quality is satisfactory, but it could certainly have been
better. Colors look good, and edge enhancement is not obtrusive, but the print
contains quite a few flaws and specks that appear throughout the film. Most
scenes are reasonably clear, but others show a substantial amount of grain.
The English subtitles are
optional, and are clear and easy to read.
The Spanish Dolby 5.1
soundtrack is clean and natural-sounding. The surround channels provide a small
amount of ambiance, but overall this is a dialogue-focused film that doesn't
demand a lot from the soundtrack. English subtitles are available.
A 25-minute making-of
featurette is the only special feature included. It's reasonably interesting,
with comments from director Fernando León, but unfortunately it's rather hard
to look at: the entire image has a blurred and slightly doubled appearance, as
if something strange had happened during the transfer. It's in Spanish with
optional English subtitles.
Mondays in the Sun is a
realistic glimpse of life among the unemployed on Spain's northern coast. Its
lack of narrative structure may make it a bit inaccessible, but it's worth
taking a look at, and it's surprisingly memorable. It's recommended.