OPENS FRIDAY 27th MAY
Four out of Five stars
Running time: 113 mins
Moving, often hilarious examination of masculine frustration with a sharply observed script and impressive performances from its cast.
Mondays in the Sun (Los Lunes al Sol, original title fans) is the third film by Spanish director Fernando León de Aranoa. Surprisingly it has taken almost three years to get a release here, despite cleaning up at the 2003 Goya Awards (the Spanish Oscars), where it won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best New Actor.
Arguably, de Aranoa has managed to out-Loach Ken Loach, because this is a moving, frequently hilarious examination of masculine frustration that is definitely worth seeking out.
The film is set in Galicia (on the northern coast of Spain) and follows the lives of a group of friends who have been laid off from the local shipyards for almost two years.
Some of them are coping better than others: Rico (Joaquin Climent) has opened a bar where he allows his friends to drink without paying their tabs, while Reina (Enrique Villein) has taken a job as a night watchman, which gradually alienates him from his friends, despite the fact that he allows them to sneak on to the roof for a partially obstructed view of a football match in one of the film’s funniest scenes.
However, it’s the unemployed characters who are the main focus of the film. They include Santa (Javier Bardem), the fiery, charismatic member of the group, who dreams of moving to Australia and takes out his frustrations on a petty court case; Lino (Jose Angel Agate), who resorts to dyeing his hair for interviews because of his fears that he’s too old to find a new job; Amador (Celso Bagel), who hides his home problems in a barely coherent alcoholic haze; and Jose (Luis Tosar, the James Nesbitt lookalike from Take My Eyes), who has trouble with the fact that he’s being supported by his sick wife.
There isn’t much of an actual plot to speak of. Instead, the film gives us a snapshot into the men’s lives as they try to salvage a shred of dignity in a society that has turned its back on them.
There are several wonderful scenes, particularly Santa’s reaction after he finally loses his court case or his deal with Rico’s daughter Nata (Aida Folch) whereby he does her baby-sitting jobs for her while she sneaks out to town.
This is a familiar story, from the work of Ken Loach (whose films are hugely popular in Spain), through dramas such as Boys From The Black Stuff or films such as The Full Monty. De Aranoa films it beautifully (it has a great final shot) and both the dialogue and the performances are extremely naturalistic.
Acting honours go to Bardem and Tosar, but the entire cast are superb; Lino’s scenes, for example are both hilarious and heart-breaking at the same time.
In short, Mondays in the Sun is a superbly acted, sharply written drama that is frequently funny and genuinely moving. Highly recommended.