Credit: Japan Society
by Joshua Polanski Featured Film

MONDAYS — Ryo Takebayashi [Japan Cuts ’23 Review]

August 3, 2023

Anyone who has ever worked a 9-5 office job has likely felt stuck performing the same meaningless tasks day after day. The only possibility to break the cycle, one imagines, is a new job — preferably, doing something different and for better wages, too. There’s something quite pitiful in this dreadful repetition; the social connections that bind coworkers, friends, and lovers are consistently drowned by the anti-social routines of capitalism. Director Ryo Takebayashi’s Mondays takes these mollified routines and creates a Groundhog Day-esque time-loop movie out of them: one advertising office is literally living the same week over and over.

Through its 70-plus iterations of that week, Takebayashi’s film never loses sight of the economic commentary. “We can work on the project until it’s perfect,” one character voices. Since the cycle could hypothetically end at any moment, a prevailing philosophy in the office is to perform their job nonetheless in order to avoid the ruthless corporate repercussions if or when they return to real-time. Of course, the workers eventually realize that their path to ending the cycle depends on their collective decision to prioritize friendships and human connections over their ultimately inane routines. 

Mondays is by no means a subgenre re-defining movie. Formally, it does its part to deliver a competent production and takes few risks along the way. That’s all by design. The routine of advertisement/marketing is boring after all. (Trust me, I know!) It’s also quite vapid when the product for sale, a “miso soup soda tablet,” is even more meaningless and absurd than the job. Aside from a fisheye shot or two, the filmmaking remains conventional for the time loop subgenre, inclusive of fast-paced editing and easily readable images. And that’s precisely the point. Mondays didn’t need to reinvent the wheel — it just found the perfect place to put one, a wonderful vehicle for this specific and blissfully simple social critique. In the words of NBA champion Nikola Jokic, “Nobody likes his job, or maybe they do. They’re lying.”