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Mondays in the Sun - Meridian Collection
The 2003 Spanish picture Mondays in the Sun is a well-crafted drama with a hint of social commentary. Co-written and directed by Fernando León de Aranoa, it focuses on a group of men in a seaside Spanish town who have been out of work for more than three years, ever since the shipyard shut down and dismissed its 200-person staff. Though there are moments where the reasons for this labor changeover are touched upon, the larger concern is how the unemployment has effected the men and their own sense of self-worth.
Leading Spanish actor Javier Bardem heads up the cast as the rough-edged Santa, a frustrated bear of a man who is finding the humiliation of redundancy a little hard to take. He's quick with proclamations and tough talk, bullying ticket takers on the ferry and loading up on free samples at the supermarket (and hitting on the sample girl at the same time), but he's also the glue that holds his group together. This makes sense, since he's the one who is the most disappointed by the working man's inability to maintain their defiance to change as a unit. The film opens with scenes of labor protest that ends violently, indicating that these are fellows who weren't willing to lie down easily.
Santa's most constant companions are Jose (Luis Tosar, Miami Vice) and Lino (José Ángel Egido, N (Io e Napoleone)). Jose is a married man with a perpetual scowl, tormented by feelings of emasculation because his wife (Nieve de Medina, El Bola) has taken a gig at the fish cannery to support them. Lino is an older family man who still thinks he's going to find work in a new field, though his gray hair and lack of experience in an office environment make him feel self-conscious. Going to job interviews makes him sweat, and he obsessively sniffs his fingers to check his body odor.
The guys spend most of their time hanging out with others in their same predicament at a local watering hole, and though at first it appears that Mondays in the Sun is going to be a light-hearted film about a group of layabouts, it slowly evolves into something deeper, revealing the issues of obsolescence and despair that the men are grappling with. Each of them is trying to deal with it in their own way, and each also faces their own potential consequences. Santa's pride has put him in legal trouble, and Jose's anger is causing a divide between him and his wife. In one of the film's most poignant scenes, she is ready to tell him she is leaving him, but without realizing it, Jose chooses the right time to finally open up to her. Tosar and Medina are quite good together, showing the exasperation of two people at the end of their ropes. Unsurprisingly, Bardem is also mesmerizing to watch, wrestling with himself as much as he is locking horns with the world around him. While his dreams of going to the open plains of Australia smacks of typical screenplay convenience, he is able to make it believable. His big mouth also leads to a lot of the comedy in the movie, which despite its gravitas never buckles under its own weight.
There is no great revelation at the end of Mondays in the Sun, no unexpected cure-all that fixes everything and ends the guys' struggles, but each of them does come to some new place of contentment that, even if just temporary, injects a little pleasing sentimentality into the movie without overdoing it to the point of cheap fakery. Fernando León de Aranoa has maintained a rather simple style up to that point, verging on an almost spartan docudrama aesthetic with occasional bouts of more expressionistic movement (Santa discovering one of his drinking buddies is living in squalor, with the camera circling him in the cramped apartment as the realization of what he is seeing sets in, being an obvious and effective example). A more snug ending would have been more fitting in a manipulative British comedy about men on the dole coming up with some ridiculous scheme to make money, not a thoughtful character piece like Mondays in the Sun. Instead, we get a movie where the guys ease out the same way they eased in, sailing on the sea, only this time under their own power rather than allowing anyone else to ferry them along.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is fairly decent, with nice colors and not a lot of edge enhancement. The one major gripe I'd have about it is that there is a bit of surface noise in the upper half of the frame for a lot of the movie, particularly beginning in chapter 9 during the scene at the bank and then continuing consistently for several chapters.
For those who own this movie's 2003 DVD release and are wondering how the new edition fares in terms of requiring a double dip, from what I can tell the technical specs are exactly the same as on that version, and though I don't have it to compare, the previous DVD Talk review's description of the image transfer suggests that this one is no different. The audio is likely the same, too.
The original Spanish language soundtrack has been remixed in 5.1 Dolby Digital and sounds pretty good. A few times there were some distortion when the dialogue got loud, but for the most part, there is a nice balance between elements and the music in particular stands out as sounding very clear.
The English subtitles are well done, nicely written with a good, readable pace. There are also Spanish subtitles.
Mondays in the Sun is part of the Lions Gate Meridian Collection, a non-starter line that so far in its first five months has only managed to repackage three older films that had been on DVD before. Like the first two films in the line, Mondays is packaged in a standard plastic slipcase with a cardboard slipcover. There is a one-sheet insert advertising the other Meridian titles, The Red Violin and Diva. Trailers for these films also appear on the disc, both when the DVD loads and accessible from the special features menu.
The 2003 DVD had one extra feature, a 25-minute "Making of" featurette, and it's carried over to this new edition. It's a decent documentary, talking to cast and crew about the origins of the stories and their motivations for their roles within the production. There is quite a bit of behind-the-scenes footage, as well.
Of the new features, the major one is the full length audio commentary by director Fernando León de Aranoa and actor Javier Bardem. The pair talk together about the making of the film, engaging in a detailed dialogue that dissects the work and talks about the experience of creating it. The track is in Spanish with subtitles.
Four deleted scenes run just over ten minutes and have introductions from the director. They involve longer character moments from some existing scenes, as well as Jose trying to explain a fight with his wife to the guys at the bar and Santa receiving an unwanted female visitor.
Finally, six minutes of storyboard comparisons show us short bits of quite a few scenes with the storyboards on the bottom and the finished scene on top.
Mondays in the Sun is an enjoyable, insightful Spanish drama about a group of men who have lost their jobs and the way they deal with the inevitable psychological fallout and harsh life challenges. The fine cast is led by the always excellent Javier Bardem, and the script is written with its eye on the reality of behavior and the true consequences of the situation rather than cute or simple solutions. Though Mondays in the Sun has been on DVD before and this new edition doesn't appear to be a vast audio/video improvement, it does have some new extras worth checking out. Recommended.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.