Movie Review: Mondays in the Sun
By Allison Benedikt, Tribune Staff Writer
Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for David Mamet. Or the banter of the "The West Wing." Or the lightning-speed chatter between the women of "Sex and the City." Sometimes I just want a movie to entertain me quietly, to lose the stylized dialogue and pithy characters. Sometimes I just want a respite from the breakneck and the sophisticated.
Fernando Leon de Aranoa's "Mondays in the Sun" ("Los Lunas al sol") is that respite. It is a quiet study of unemployment told through the stories of three friends Santa (Javier Bardem), José (Luis Tosar) and Lino (José Ángel Egido) all laid off years before from their shipyard jobs on the northern coast of Spain. How each man handles his affairs and fills his days is a tale unto itself.
Lino, married with a teenage son, is the most visibly emasculated. Unable to provide for his family, his palpable shame manifests itself in a perpetual, catatonic job search. Each day he trudges out to another interview, often unaware of what job he is applying for, and each night returns home to ask his wife if any calls came in, as if today might be the day.
But de Aranoa doesn't let Lino wither as a naive and sublimly optimistic unemployed man. As Lino turns to his teenage son's closet for a youthful look and sweats profusely in waiting room after waiting room, we're always aware, as is Lino, that his hope is really desperation and his fortitude just a routine to get him through the day.
While Lino stays just above water through constant activity, mild-mannered Jose, also married, is drowning in a sea of alcohol and self-pity. His insecurities creep into his relationship with Ana (Nieve De Medina), his wife and now provider, who herself is coping with an eroded state of being.
Though beautiful and strong, Ana's self-worth wilts with her husband's. After long shifts at the fish factory, she methodically sprays perfumed deodorant all over her body to cover up the disgust and exhaustion she feels about work and presumably about her life. Ana's love for Jose is true, but it's complicated by the condition they both find themselves in, and as we watch Jose unravel, we sympathize for a woman left either to carry her husband or find a less depressing existence without him.
De Aranoa gives us other characters a gaggle of men who all hang out at a friend's bar and ride the commuter ferry to nowhere each morning but it's Bardem's Santa who subtly steals the show. Bardem clearly put on weight for this role, and he carries it just as his character would: as a once-strikingly handsome man whose life has been weighed down by burden and age. Santa is unattached and fancies himself a ladies' man, though a certain loneliness and weariness keep his flirtations more sad than sexy.
His nostalgia for the good old days, mainly for the tumultuous and bloody labor dispute at the shipyard, inhibit Santa from moving forward. With the threat of jail time, Santa finally pays an old fine he owes for breaking a lamppost during one of the protests. But it is his pride that motivates him to go back to that lamppost and break it once more, and enables us to predict his every move.
Bardem gives what might have been too slow and plodding a movie its heart and its humor. Though his Santa is the floater of the crew no wife, no family Bardem plays him with intelligence and stability. He knows what he knows. He knows what he doesn't know. And even with his predilection for younger women and grand monologues on labor unity, he knows when he's just full of it.
The tired and washed-out Spanish town is a fitting backdrop for these men a place where life moves on around them at an uninspiring pace. It's a town like any other, where the unemployed can fade into the crowd, wile away their days, stand in employment lines, lay on the rocks spending Mondays in the sun. Hopes and dreams are for another day.
"Mondays in the Sun"
Directed and written by Fernando Leon de Aranoa; produced by Elias Querejeta; photographed by Alfredo Mayo; edited by Nacho Ruiz Capillas; costumes designed by Maiki Marin. In Spanish with English subtitles. A Lions Gate Films release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:55. MPAA rating: R (language).
Santa Javier Bardem
Jose Luis Tosar
Lino Jose Angel Egido
Ana Nieve De Medina