Denise Gough and Sebastian Stan bring chemistry to a frustrating relationship that should not be
Let’s be clear from the start: there is nothing especially unique about Monday’s plot. Chloe (Denise Gough) is an immigration lawyer from America planning to return home from Greece in just a few days. Mickey (Sebastian Stan) is another ex-pat, well-rooted in Greece by now, DJing and waiting for more time with his young son. Mickey’s uncouth privileged by birth friend Argyris (Giorgos Pyrpasopoulos) introduces them in the worst way at a dance party. Mickey’s interested but embarrassed by his friend’s behavior, while Chloe is offended, but a little bit drunk and a lot angry at her ex, Christos (Andreas Konstantinou). Despite starting as a fairly ill-advised one-night stand, the two hit it off and begin to alter their plans and rearrange their lives to make a go of it.
For Chloe, Monday meant returning to the United States. The film’s structure keeps delaying Monday’s arrival. A series of title cards inform us it is Friday or Saturday or Sunday, but never Monday. Time jumps forward but we never seem to land on that first day of the workweek.
At first, this is an expression of the new infatuated rush of a relationship. We are only seeing the couple on the weekends but for them, it is figuratively all weekends. Mickey’s life is one of free-floating hedonism anyways it seems and Chloe gratefully jumps aboard the ride, choosing willfully ignorant bliss over the pain she was enduring in the movie’s opening minute.
Alas, however, Monday must come. And so, over time, writer-director Argyris Papadimitropoulos, along with co-writer Rob Hayes, let the flaws creep in; the faults, the ugliness, the disappointments begin to gather at the edge until neither party can ignore them.
Stan makes it clear from the jump what kind of guy Mickey is. He’s a good time all the time fella, and Stan imbues him with the kind of charisma that makes that enjoyable, rather than just agitating. However, he wears Mickey’s flaws obviously too. Always being up for fun means taking nothing seriously, be it your son, your music, or your financial well-being.
Gough, on the other hand, plays Chloe closer to the vest. We can feel her exhilaration, her sense of relief, in connecting with Mickey. However, at first, it doesn’t make sense. Sure, for a weekend, he’d be a great time. To upend her whole life’s plan though, especially to stay in a place she alludes to hating early and often? It feels strange and like pure plot machinations.
There are times when Stan and Gough’s undeniable chemistry fails to make the relationship make sense. The experience of watching them together without questioning it themselves often tips over into frustration. However, the deeper Gough digs in, the clearer things become. Subtly at first, and then devastatingly rapidly, Gough unfolds Chloe and reveals her desperate self-destructive core. Mickey might be a fuck up who keeps cutting off his nose to spite his face, but he somehow manages to always pull himself back on the path. Chloe though—there is a none too small a part of her that hungers for oblivion. She doesn’t just want the good times to roll, she wants to be utterly undone by them.
[Monday] wants you to feel as bruised and desperate as its two leads do, but it also makes room for moments of gentle grace.
What a beautiful place to seek your personal erasure though. As photographed by Hristos Karamanis, Greece is at first a place akin to paradise. Perfectly sun-kissed, it is easy to understand why Mickey views Chloe’s desire to leave with incredulity. The cinematography moves in step with the plot, however. Things grow increasingly claustrophobic as Mickey’s apartment becoming the film’s dominant locale. When the couple does venture out, as to a friend of Chloe’s wedding, the camera starts to pull in tight to our protagonists, keeping their faces central or forcing them in tight for two-shots with other characters. A love affair that began on a picture-perfect piece of beach hits its nadir in the dingy hallway of an abandoned building. As with Chloe and Mickey’s relationship, it is easy to think everything looks beautiful until the movie definitively forces you to see otherwise.
The film has more than ugliness in its heart though. It wants you to feel as bruised and desperate as its two leads do, but it also makes room for moments of gentle grace. There is a sense of sweet humanism that leavens the film’s tone even as Monday hits its most painful moments. It never feels dismissive but rather affirms that there can still be hope in our lowest points.
It also delights in the physical form of its two leads. To be clear, yes, this means nudity. Lots of it. If you are one of those people who hop on social to suggest movies would be better off without any sex, well, this is one to avoid. For those who don’t necessarily dislike nudity or sex but worry about it feeling demeaning or exploitative, Monday should be a relief. Stan and Gough are two very attractive people with bodies that can be conservatively referred to as “nice,” but the camera’s eye trains on them matter-of-factly. Their love and lust for each other is clear, but the film is never trying to stir that in us. The best way description to offer is that while the movie clearly takes joy in the leads’ enjoyment of each other, it is only chronicling, never indulging in it.
Between the clichés and the frustration, many viewers will likely jump off this film before the end. It also pulls to be unfavorably compared to movies like Before Sunrise. However, those that can bear the frustration long enough for Monday to fully reveal itself will likely find much to admire, and perhaps even to enjoy, in it.
Monday dances its way into theatres and onto VOD Friday April 16th.