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2001: men without jobs, in the port city of Vigo. Six men worked in a shipyard, now shuttered. They pass the time at La Naval, a bar opened by one of them after the yard closed. They face their futures in makeshift ways: Rico has his bar and a sharp 15-year-old daughter, Reina has become a watchman and a moralizer, Lino fills out job applications, Amador drinks heavily and talks of his wife's return; José is married to Ana, who works at a cannery and tires of being the breadwinner amidst José's emasculated moodiness; Santa, the group's conscience and troublemaker, occasionally fantasizes about Australia. In truth, all are joined like Siamese twins, adrift. Written by
No film has ever captured the depression and delight of the ordinary working man as realistically as "Mondays in the Sun". Watching it brought me back to the gray days of growing up when I would see my father's tired face and wonder what joy he can possibly be getting that pulls him through the pressure filled, cold and seemingly endless cycle of working hard day in, day out.
Javier Bardem plays the not-ever-to-be-defeated Santa, a strong-willed, but down on his luck guy who just got laid off from a comfortable job at a shipyard. He takes refuge in a buddy's bar with all his friends/co-workers who share the same misfortune. On top of all the problems anchoring him down, Santa must pay a hefty fine for destroying a light by the shipyard. For one week, he tries to run from these injustices and bothers, and he sojourns with his dreams.
What director Fernando Leon de Aranoa understands is that no matter how much joy we can have in a given amount of time, there is always the weight of work and responsibility to come back to. In the dreary life of the working man, things gets so routine that the magic of being young and having dreams is lost and gone forever. Aranoa's characters are all faced with the joy and bad luck of being unemployed. In this short time of pressure and paradise, they find escape and salvation in what seems like a limbo of meaninglessness. One of the film's best characters is a surreal, random friend of someone in the group who claims he was once an astronaut. By looking into his starry eyes, it is easy for the viewer to understand that this group of people have all found release in dreaming about getting to leave the earth as well.
It may not amount to the world, but I loved "Mondays in the Sun" because it knows the ordinary joys and pains of those struggling in the lower or middle class. What is truly beautiful about this film is how all of the characters seem at their most desperate, but somehow there is the assurance that maybe the light is not out forever.
(3 out of 4)
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