Mondays in the Sun
Directed by Fernando León de Aranoa. Starring Javier Bardem, Luis Tosar, José Angel Egido, Nieve de Medina, Enrique Villén, Celso Bugallo. (2002, R, 113 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Aug. 15, 2003
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday, Friday ... it hardly matters which day is which to the layabouts and functional drunks of this multiple Goya Award-winning film. They weren't always this way; before the dockyard closed down in their northern coastal Spanish town, they were employed, contented, some of them married. Now José (Tosar) watches his wife, the new breadwinner, trudge off every night to work at the cannery; fiftysomething Lino (Egido) dyes away the gray in a wasted effort to compete with 20-year-olds for the same entry-level jobs; and the prole-power Santa (Bardem) returns always to the fist-thumping tale of how management did them wrong. (Occasionally Santa finds other targets: As he reads a bedtime story to a young boy – the moral allegory "The Grasshopper and the Ant" – Santa grows more and more irate, finally slamming the book shut with an editorial, "That ant was a real bastard.") They meet every day, along with a handful of others, including a goofy Russian ex-cosmonaut, at Rico's Bar to drink, to discuss, and to lament. Rico was laid off, too, but used his severance pay to open the bar – perhaps unwisely, considering his only customers appear to be his piss-poor, piss-drunk friends. Rico's Bar is their clubhouse, and what brings them together is the shared shame and frustration of their aimless, hopeless lives, binding them in a sort of brotherhood of emasculation. Santa is the ringleader, although that implies far more forward motion than the hulking, sleepy-eyed Santa can muster. Bardem, who piled on the weight and grew a thick beard for the film, recalls a lumbering Saint Bernard, always up for an adventure, always meaning well but just as content to lay in the sun and have a drink. Bardem injects a shaggy, compassionate humor throughout, aided by a wry and moving ensemble cast and co-writer/director Fernando León de Aranda's eye for the offbeat. At one point, this motley crew attends a soccer match on the sly; their friend works as a security cop at the stadium and sneaks them up to the rafters, where the view is half obscured. Lining a bleacher, drinks in hand, the men slowly rise in anticipation of a goal, only to have the view blocked just at the moment of triumph. It's a clever bit, but one that also speaks volumes of the half-lives these characters cling to.