Preview by: Jack Foley
THE film which Spain chose as its official entry for this year's
Oscars, Javier Bardem's Mondays in the Sun (Los Lunes Al Sol)
is another typically impressive cinema outing for the star, albeit
with a far more grittier edge than Almodovar's life-affirming
masterpiece, Talk To Her.
Bardem (of Before Night Falls and The
Dancer Upstairs fame) stars as Santa, a dock worker in Spain,
who finds himself unemployed after the local yard shuts down.
The film then chronicles Santa's attempts, with his friends,
to come to grips with their new lives, as their desperation rises
and their pride sinks.
Directed by Fernando Leon de Aranoa, from a script he co-wrote
with Ignacio del Moral, Mondays in the Sun was the talk of the
town when it took top honours at the prestigious 50th San Sebastian
film festival (a showcase for Spanish and Latin American cinema)
- even though Bardem, himself, was overlooked in the Best Actor
The story takes place in a non specific northern Spanish town,
but is based on a real occurrence in the city of Vigo, when 90
shipyard workers were made redundant.
It appealed to Bardem because Aranoa's script dared to tackle
pertinent political and social problems that other films seldom
seemed to have the guts to.
According to the actor, 'the unemployment problem in Spain is
big and the government is trying to hide that problem'.
The film also works on an emotional level, according to Bardem,
because it deals with the universal issue of dignity and he urges
people to see it.
"It's about five unemployed friends trying to survive in
the north of Spain," he added. "It's a bit Ken Loach.
It won best movie at the San Sebastian Film Festival and was chosen
to represent our country at the Oscars instead of the Almodóvar
movie. That's a huge thing."
Aside from its success at San Sebastian, Mondays in the Sun also
took Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Bardem), Best Suppporting
Actor (Luis Tosar), and Best Breakthrough Actor (Jose Angel Egido)
at the 2003 Spanish Academy Goyas, having been released in its
native Spain last September.
The film has also broken all sorts of Box Office records in Spain.
It is due to open in America on July 25 but, as yet, there is
no UK release date. We will, of course, be keeping an eye on it
over the coming year.
Javier Bardem has done it again, proving himself to be the darling
of the American critics.
Mondays in the Sun has generated another set of glowing reviews
for the star, beginning with the Hollywood Reporter, which
wrote that the smartly written picture is graced by another
accomplished Javier Bardem performance.
The New York Times, meanwhile, wrote that this slow,
episodic film is held together by the galvanic presence of Javier
The New York Post referred to it as a stirring,
character-driven study, while the Los Angeles Times
opined that it is a piece of sophisticated, subtle film-making
that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking.
There were some negative notices, however, with several finding
the films pace too slow for comfort and its narrative going nowhere,
The New York Daily News, for example, said that Mondays
in the Sun, though buoyed by excellent, unflinching performances,
this melancholy drama reflects the dismally monotonous lives of
its subjects just a little too well.
And LA Weekly stated that Mondays in the Sun has
come to illustrate just how hard it is to do what Ken Loach and
Laurent Cantet make seem so effortless.
FilmCritic.com, meanwhile, felt that the popcorn
out in the lobby would seem a more compelling attraction.
But, in the main, the response was largely positive, with Slant
Magazine continuing the good vibe by writing that Aranoas
storytelling is full of fire and nuance, and his striking, heartbreaking,
mutedly hopeful film exhibits the spirit of its Italian neo-realist
Likewise, Box Office Magazine, which concludes this round-up
by stating that throughout, Bardem ... is a potent presence.