2017 | Unrated (R equivalent) | starring Noomi Rapace, Noomi Rapace, Noomi Rapace, Noomi Rapace, Noomi Rapace, Noomi Rapace, Noomi Rapace, Willem Dafoe, Glenn Close | directed by Tommy Wirkola | 2hrs 3mins |
Studio Pitch: Orphan Black meets Minority Report
At first glance, the title What Happened to Monday sounds like a post-apocalyptic title (like How I Live Now) about a world that has fallen into such upheaval that even basic structures of civilization like marking time on a calendar have disappeared into a memory. Sort of, before it presents us with it’s very literal double meaning, Monday sets up an intriguing dystopian futureworld based on curbing the environmental threat of over population. In the future, mankind has gotten so densly populated that in order to feed everyone we resorted to genetically engineered crops, crops that caused mutations and resulted in multiple birth pregnancies across the globe. With the solution worsening the problem the world installs Ted Turner and Bill Nye’s global one-child policy forcibly outlawing siblings. In this world, Willem Dafoe’s wife Karen Settman dies in childbirth leaving behind a set of septuplets, who Defoe names after the days of the week and teaches how to live in hiding.
Noomi Rapace steps into an acting challenge, previously only occupied on TV by Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black, of playing 7 roles against herself as the septuplets, each with their own distinct looks and personalities. Sunday seems to be the brave believer of the group; Monday, the leader and adult professional; Friday the genius techie; Saturday the virginal innocent; and Thursday, the rebellious cynic who views their life in hiding as a slow death. Monday’s first act is fascinating. First in laying out the reality of the new world, enforced with a combination of armed squads that chase down children and cryogenic child storage units that freeze them for later – all run by the Child Allocation Bureau (headed by Glenn Close).Then it establishes – in unobtrusive flashback- the training Dafoe gave to his children for how they will live, hide and pretend to be one another as he takes each of them out one day a week as his only daughter. In the present, Monday goes missing and the septuplets hatch a plan to sneak out one-by-one and track her down as the film shifts more and more into a pulpy film noir mystery.
Director Tommy Wirkola has a cultish resume after splashing onto the scene with the zombie Nazi comedy Dead Snow, it’s sequel and the studio Hanzel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, all of which took a wacky premise and played them straight. Monday is his most straight-forward work yet, refusing to let camp or hijinks creep into the feature. Wirkola feels out the character and action beats, working with a budget around the edges to create the world inside the sisters’ apartment and just outside where garbage bags pile up in the streets. He manages to make little bits in and around these confined setting exciting. My favorite payoff involving an improvised solution to a fingerprint-locked gun. There is also a beautiful bit of low-tech visual poetry when an exploding room rains ash down on one of the characters. The script is dense, stacked full with set-ups, payoffs and details, finding arcs for the septuplets (Wirkola even finds time for a sex scene), especially Thursday who becomes the film’s unlikely lynch-pin. Monday has so many fun twists, turns and cheer-the-heroes moments it would probably have played better in a full theater than as a Netflix Original.
As the movie winds into it’s third act its debts start to become obvious, owing a lot to a host of classic sci-fi films from Logan’s Run to Minority Report; however, at that point the movie has constructed the core of it’s reality so well it doesn’t feel derivative. Wirkola has ginned up too much fun and Rapace has sucked me into the fate of the septuplets. Monday might disappoint those looking for a more thoughtful sci-fi take on this story. The same crowd that was disappointed by the third act of District 9. Monday uses it’s premise as a springboard for a thrilling chase film and jettisons out of the movie any thoughtful debate about the economics of a global one-child policy or overpopulation on the world. Which is fine, Monday is a fully realized and always entertaining with a focus on character at the forefront – not a speculative documentary. It’s a sci-fi film, it’s an action movie, it’s a mystery and it’s a showcase for Rapace – and all of those elements work together well. On a grand scale, it plays like the skillfully made and superior version of a YA dystopian movie, working under the assumption that if we personally like the septuplets we will root for them to bring down the oppressive system – and worry about the consequences later.
Which brings us back to the casting of Glenn Close as the leader of the Child Allocation Bureau. What this movie could have used – what would have put it over the top – is a big, juicy, James Bond villain monologue from Close where she makes an unhinged case in front of everyone that she’s the hero here and she’s the one doing the ugly job and making the sacrifice so that everyone else can go about their lives in denial. Where she details the ghastly state of an overpopulated world fighting for resources that she is trying to prevent. Antagonist 101. Your antagonist always thinks they are the hero. You’ve got Glenn Close there, use her.