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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Mondays in the Sun (Los lunes al sol)
Mondays in the Sun (Los lunes al sol)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // November 18, 2003
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted December 12, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

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 unemployable?

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.

The DVD

Video

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.

Audio

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.

Extras

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.

Final thoughts

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.

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