Mondays in the Sun (Los Lunes al Sol)
directed by Fernando Leon de Aranoa
(Lions Gate, 2002)

In the sometimes unrelentingly harsh world of international economics, sometimes putting your heart and soul into your job isn't nearly enough to save it.

So it goes for the Spanish shipworkers of Mondays in the Sun (Los Lunes al Sol), who see their livelihood close its gates and move production to Korea in an effort to find workers who are willing to pour their heart and soul into shipbuilding for less money.

It's been years since the closing, yet most of the men in Fernando Leon de Aranoa's 2002 film have gotten no closer to new jobs. In their 40s or older, there seems to be no room in the new Spain for their skills, and little motivation or outlet for learning new ones. Instead, their days are the only currency they have to spend, each just like yesterday, one running into the other.

Sounds grim? It is. But a fantastic cast, led by the incredible Javier Bardem (The Dancer Upstairs) pulls us through the pathos without dipping into anything trite along the way.

Mondays in the Sun pretty much is a simple movie on the surface, lounging through the days with these longtime friends. Yet the stress unemployment has caused -- in their marriages, in trying to live life, in their relationships with their children, in their pride -- is never absent from any scene.

Dreams take the place of real action: Santa (Bardem) dreams of Australia as he rides the ferry one day (and, in a deft touch, "Beyond the Sea" drifts over the ferry's loudspeakers). One-night stands take the place of lasting relationships. Drinks take the place of a vanished wife.

There are scenes of brokenhearted desperation -- in one, Lino (Jose Angel Egido) colors the gray out of his hair on the way to a job interview, only to have his anxious sweat start the dye dripping down his neck like blood. And there are scenes of pure rebellious pleasure, most of them instigated by Santa.

The power of Mondays in the Sun would be tamed were it not for Bardem, Egido and the rest of a cast that fully understands the wonderful dialogue of de Aranoa and Ignacio del Moral and can push it even further without ever speaking. Quiet desperation is rarely so intense.

There's no bouyancy, as there is in several more commercial British movies about the steel and mining industries, The Full Monty and Brassed Off among them, and it's not as unrelentingly dark as some others.

But for a strong ensemble that easily fits into the world created by Mondays in the Sun, you'll find few equals on video these days.

- Rambles
written by Jen Kopf
published 24 July 2004

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