As fate would have it, I was able to spend a lot of time watching and contemplating “Mondays in the Sun” — the story of unemployed shipyard workers — because I was unemployed myself.
Since I was currently traveling the road of the characters — a road most viewers, I suppose, have traveled at some point — I could recognize the various attitudes of the men, from proud to defeated to bitter. However, even while in the throes of unemployment, I was not moved as much as the film wanted me to be, nor did I feel as much sympathy for the fictional jobless ones. And if a movie about unemployment has little impact ON the unemployed, whom WILL it have impact on?
Written and directed by Fernando Leon de Aranoa, and Spain’s official Academy Award submission in 2003, the film follows a small, loyal group of friends who lost their jobs when the shipyard closed down. Santa (Javier Bardem) is blithely bitter now, more so because he has been ordered to pay for a street light he broke during a strike protesting the layoffs. He spends his time at a bar, with friends like the aging Amador (Celso Bugallo), whose wife has left; José (Luis Tosar), who is embarrassed at having to let his wife be the sole breadwinner; and Lino (José Angel Egido), an earnest family man who fails his job interviews because he’s in his 40s rather than his 20s.
Lino is certainly the most sympathetic character, and Egido’s performance is often beautiful as the poor man takes desperate, pathetic measures to appear younger to potential employers. See him taking notes as his teenage son tries to teach him about computers, so clearly uncomfortable at such an indignity but completely resigned to it in the interest of supporting his family. Through Lino is channeled all the nobility of the working class.
Somewhere nearer the other end of the spectrum is the protagonist, Santa, who refuses honest generosity from well-wishers and who even complains about the seats that security guard friend Reina (Enrique Villón) gets them at soccer matches, because, though free, the seats do not have a view of the opposing team’s goal. (You get what you pay for, I suppose.) Santa has taken to sub-letting babysitting jobs from a teenage acquaintance, one whom he flirts with rather shamelessly, though the movie curiously ignores that plot thread.
Plot is not a central concern here, though perhaps it ought to have been. Though we feel attached to some of the characters, it is not enough to sustain a two-hour film simply to show them hanging around, complaining about not working. It has nice little touches, and the aforementioned solid performances, but in the end nothing is accomplished. It is as though the film itself is unemployed.
C+ (1 hr., 53 min.; in Spanish with subtitles; )