The ultimate human interest story possesses elements of suffering brought on by the ravages of international competition wrought by a global economy. In other words, one of the axiomatic circumstances of hopelessness results from joblessness, the inability to sustain one's family, and an overwhelming bleakness on the horizon as future prospects appear dim.
Fernando León de Aranoa's 2002 film, "Mondays in the Sun" proves to be achingly realistic in relation to such hopelessness, and tells the individual story often overlooked in the universal quest for a true global village. Set in the Spanish port city of Vigo, the story focuses on a group of middle-age men who are suddenly laid off from their long-time jobs, only to find themselves utterly unemployable in the wake of an economic downturn that plagues their working class employers.
The men, led by the one named Santa (Javier Bardem), spend their days languishing at the local watering hole, and in their "free time," engage in various misadventures characteristic of the listless and aimless lives of those with little purpose to keep their spirits high. Director León lays an overtone of bleakness over his film, but colors the overall feel with episodes of hilarity that serve to underscore his point that, no matter how bad one's situation, life can still offer special moments that make living worthwhile.
As but a few examples of the subtly humorous are the night during which the men drink themselves into a stupor in the home of the child that they agreed to baby-sit. At another scene, the men take in a soccer game from the roof fo the stadium – unable to afford the price of tickets, they must watch the game from afar, completely unable to see much of the action by virtue of their obstructed view.
While there is very little outright laughter contained in "Mondays in the Sun," the message is one of poking fun at the life of affluence that so many Western countries consider the be-all and end-all of existence. León never castigates the market-based economy so much as he paints a realistic portrait of those who fall between the cracks of the rest of us who are spending every waking moment working to keep up with the Joneses (or in this case, the Jose's)…
León finds much success in his contrast between those with work, an implied purpose, and those who are aimless, as exemplified by the four or five men that form the central group in his story. "Mondays in the Sun" is a fascinating glimpse into a handful of individual stories that provide a suitable subtext to global trends. The film is meaningful on both levels, and as fascinating a true-to-life drama as one can hope to find from the past couple of years.
Aside from the acting, the major sense of mood that León generates for "Mondays in the Sun" is garnered by his cinematography. The video is characterized by a preponderance of close-ups of the men's' faces, a highly nuanced approach that allows body language to do a great deal of the film's talking, even considering that the men do, indeed, talk a great deal in words. But the overall effect of León's video footage is an industrial bleakness, using grays, browns, yellows, and other earth-tones; he illustrates the aimlessness of life in a downtrodden place. The picture is presented on DVD in a Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic format that is beautiful in its clarity.
Audio on the DVD is a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track, with available subtitles in both English and Spanish. Although I speak little Spanish, I watched half the film without subtitles, and the film's message came through even though I did not understand exactly what the men were saying. Just as their facial expressions tell more than words, their words tend toward the understated, unemotional, with a blank tone that tells enough about their plight. Dialogue forms almost all aspects of the film's audio, and is nicely presented with the 5.1 track.
A noticeable omission on the DVD release for "Mondays in the Sun" is a commentary track from Director León. Indeed, León won Best Director at the 2002 Goya Awards, with his film winning Best Film at the San Sebastian Film Festival – such accolades would certainly have justified some background commentary from the director as to the impetus behind his creation. Instead, the DVD contains a Making Of Featurette that is never sufficiently deep into the filmmaking process. In future, we can expect that Lions Gate will correct the deficiencies in this DVD release by adding additional significant Special Features.