Javier Bardem proves once again, as he has in movies’ past that he is one of the most talented actors that can be called upon time and time again in the Spanish film world to provide performances that are absolutely incredible, even when the film may not be, as it is shown in “Mondays In The Sun”.
Bardem plays Santa, a former shipyard worker in Spain who was laid off three years ago and participated in a violent protest that provides the framework for the film. Many workers protested and others signed agreements that allowed them to stay on for one more year before they had to be let go, as it’s demonstrated in Rico (Joaquin Climent) who now runs a bar, where his only customers are Santa and his former co-workers.
With a film about people out of work and struggling greatly, you expect a certain number of stories that help us learn about these people’s situations and possibly what makes them tick. Those stories are given quite nicely, but it becomes incredibly repetitious as we see the same despair over and over in some of the men. One of them is Lino (Jose Angel Egido), who goes to job interview after job interview, seeking a job where younger men are clearly favored. He even goes so far at one point to dye his hair so that he will appear younger. This has been his life for quite some time and it’s something to watch him try over and over again.
Jose (Luis Tosar) is married to Ana (Nieve de Medina), who is left to make the money for both of them. She works in a fish factory where she packs tuna into cans and each day is followed by a session in the bathroom at home, trying to get the fish smell out. Jose isn’t the laziest guy in the world, he just can’t nail down a job.
Watching these men trying to struggle through their daily lives and the difficulties that face them can only go so far, and it gets to the point where the film seems to be running around in circles especially with music that seems a bit too loud for its own good and makes it seem obvious that it’s trying to say, “Point trying to be driven home here.” Yes we know that without employment, life can be pretty tough. It’s lucky that Javier Bardem is in the film. Santa provides most of the interest throughout the running time with his refusal to back down on certain matters and just take things as they come. He exudes too much pride for that. For example, he refuses to pay 8,000 pesetas for a streetlamp that he broke during the violent dockyard protests, even when the court orders it. He also nurses a fantasy where he believes Australia is the place to be and explains to Lino the country’s policy for retirement.
I wasn’t expecting some kind of film where witticisms are thrown around every couple of minutes or so, or where the men come up with some kind of semi-inspiring plan to save their wallets and themselves. But there’d better be good reasons for us to actually care about the various characters in this film. There are several instances where 113 minutes seems like a long time to get through, and without Bardem, it’s possible that the film could have become one huge lull. Another brief saving grace is some of the scenery because with foreign film, it’s pretty cool to see places that we’re not likely to see anytime soon. “Mondays In The Sun” is not an incredible disappointment, but it could have used some more work in making us remain curious about these characters and what their next course of action would be.