If Marxist dramas about the unemployed are your cup of tea, then Fernando León de Aranoa’s Mondays in the Sun will surely quench your thirst. A sentimental tale of out-of-work men who’ve lost their jobs at a dying shipyard that stood at the center of their Spanish town’s economy, the film follows four unhappy guys—Santa (Javier Bardem), José (Luis Tosar), Lino (José Ángel Egido) and Amador (Celso Bugallo)—as they spend their Mondays lounging under the sun, unable (or unwilling) to obtain work and unraveling under the weight of professional disappointments, marital problems and personal insecurities. Their air of resignation and ennui slips into the film’s constitution, as Aranoa gently presents his story with a modicum of flash and a healthy dose of pent-up fury at a capitalist system that compels industries to lay off workers, and, in some cases, to shut down completely. Fortunately, Mondays in the Sun never becomes didactic, primarily as a result of Aranoa’s concentrated focus on the particulars of his characters’ lives and his ability to elicit humor from these bleak circumstances (including a hilarious babysitting expedition carried out by the three friends and an out-of-work Russian cosmonaut). As the mischievous, bitter Santa, Bardem dons a bushy beard and some extra pounds, giving his character a rotund playfulness that belies the simmering resentment hidden beneath his cheerful appearance; it’s a performance of passion and grace that, coupled with fine turns by Aranoa’s solid supporting cast, gives the film’s rather one-sided examination of the unemployed a human complexity that reflects the many causes responsible for the men’s regrettable situations. Striving to smile in the face of seemingly insurmountable and never-ending obstacles, Santa and his cohorts try to strike back against their perceived oppressors (Santa refuses to pay the shipyard for breaking one of their streetlamps, José lashes out at the bank that refuses to give him a loan) and reconcile themselves with the humbling realities of their lives, most notably embodied by José‘s attempts to accept the fact that his wife is the household’s breadwinner. Aranoa’s storytelling is full of fire and nuance, and his striking, heartbreaking, mutedly hopeful film exhibits the spirit of its Italian neo-realist predecessors.
- Fernando León de Aranoa
- Fernando León de Aranoa, Ignacio del Moral
- Javier Bardem, Luis Tosar, José Ángel Egido, Nieve de Medina, Enrique Villén, Celso Bugallo, Joaquín Climent, Aida Folch
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: