Credit: IFC Films
by Ayeen Forootan Featured Film Horizon Line

Monday | Argyris Papadimitropoulos

April 16, 2021

Monday is a derivative, dull, and altogether flat effort that captures none of the carefree spirit it partially peddles.

With an overly familiar and intentionally simple plot, one that, on its face, resembles Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, and boasting camerawork that lightly mimics the images of late-career Terrence Malick, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ Monday is a largely unauthentic film that seeks only to recall as many influences as possible in chimerical fashion. In this Greece-based romantic dramedy, where the city of Athens has no more character here than any typical urban backdrop, Chloe (Denise Gough) and Mickey (Sebastian Stan) — two 30-ish American ex-pats — abruptly, and not quite believably, meet in a dance club, start up a cheery fling, and soon fall for each other. In the absence of any real story, it’s predictable how this narrative will go: aimlessly, circling a fixed point rather than progressing in any meaningful way or even accumulating layers. It’s all set up so that these two young lovers — little more than a pair of horny bunnies, honestly — can smooch and hump in any place at any time, filling the in-between with some pointless dance and talk. Occasionally, an on-screen title in bold letters announces the time as “Friday,” and the reason isn’t hard to grasp: Chloe and Mickey are living freely and unabashedly, as if every day is a Friday. Predictably, then, the trajectory we must follow is one wherein their raucous love affair will give way to troubles and hardships — Monday will come.

Setting their recklessness aside, Chloe and Mickey may be one of the least interesting couples to recently grace one’s screen or memory. The characters struggle to even demonstrate any palpable chemistry that would help sell their relationship. The best that can be said of the quality these two exude — which may be enough for some viewers, and surely had to be the approach here — is that there’s a natural “coolness” they successfully conjure. It’s no mystery why this tack is taken: amid the mass of underdeveloped ideas, a glut of function-less subordinate characters, and the film’s underwhelming dramatic or comic situations, Papadimitropoulos tries to compensate by gilding his aesthetics, dappling compositions with bright rays of light, and fully riding the film’s hedonistic, substance-fueled mood. And while this initially introduces a few pleasures, sparking small moments of excitement and some instances of euphoric physicality,  it all quickly flattens under such repetition. As things begin to spiral out of control for the couple and life introduces them to tragedy, Monday also inadvisably, if perhaps predictably, bends to incorporate an unnecessary dramatic wrinkle that adds gravity all while making it harder to take any of this seriously.

Indeed, from this point, one can be forgiven for losing focus in the film’s slow slog to the end. Papadimitropoulos makes work of ticking off a bevy of amour fou clichés, leaving little originality for viewers to care about or glom onto. Everyone knows the feelings that come after a wild, drunken party or a hazy one-night stand is over, when the exhilaration and elation quickly subdue — sometimes even to the point of embarrassment.  Monday is something like that, reaching for those highs but too quickly settling into the post-party low, leaving little to remember or cherish once it’s finished. In one scene, Chloe asks Mickey, “Is it true you’re only happy when you’re failing?”, to which he replies “no,” even as his face suggests the truth of a tendency toward self-sabotage. Given how consistently the film undermines itself, it’s not a stretch to think Papadimitropoulos might be similarly inclined, and if that’s true, then he can content himself knowing that Monday isn’t too far from being a total failure. While it seems the director was trying to subvert established romantic genre formula, the final product plays more like a malformed hybrid of Abdellatif Kechiche’s salacious realism in Mektoub, My Love and John Whitesell’s corny superficiality in Holidate, and, unfortunately, far less fun than that sounds.