Los Lunes al sol

(Mondays in the Sun, Spain - 2002)

by Tina Goldberg

Cast: Javier Bardem, Luis Tosa, Jose Angel Egido, Nieve de Medina, Enrique Villen, Celso Bugallo, Joaquin Climent, Aida Folch
Genre: Drama
Director: Fernando Leon de Aranda
Screenplay: Fernando Leon de Aranda & Ignacio del Moral
Cinematography: Alfred F. Mayo
Composer: Lucio Godoy
Runtime: 115 minutes

"We'll Drink to 'They Might Call Us'…" - Santa's bar room toast

I was pretty surprised when Los Lunes al Sol was announced as Spain's 2003 Academy Awards entry for Best Foreign Language Film. After all, Pedro Almodovar's film Hable con Ella (Talk to Her) was not just receiving hordes of critical acclaim, but had also been nominated in two "regular" Academy Awards categories. Being a great fan of Spanish cinema, I decided to do some research on Los Lunes al Sol, and what an impressive resume I found. It won Goya Awards (the main national film award in Spain) for Best Film, Best New Actor (Jose Angel Egido), Best Lead Actor (the always fabulous Javier Bardem), Best Supporting Actor (Luis Tosar), and Best Director (Fernando Leon de Aranda), and was nominated for three others. The Spanish cinema writers gave it six awards out of ten nominations. It also won four prizes at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, though in that case it wasn't competing against Almodovar's film.

As much as I love Almodovar, he tends to go off on a few wild tangents during his movies. I'm very used to this from him, and sometimes it even adds to my enjoyment of the film. However, as much as I like Hable Con Ella, there is a very critical part that is difficult for me to overlook, the rape (and subsequent impregnating) of a coma patient by her mentally unstable nurse. For reasons like that, I found it difficult to really embrace the characters in this Almodovar movie, while I could relate to many of the character traits in the Los Lunes.

Los Lunes al Sol is about unemployment (a national problem) and its effects on personal relationships. Santa, Jose, Lino, Rico, and Amador are friends and former coworkers. Two years ago, globalization forced them from jobs at a shipbuilding yard (Korea was a more cost-effective option). The shipbuilding yard was the backbone of the economy in this small Spanish town, so more than just jobs were lost. Of the five friends, only two have found work. Rico used his severance salary to open a small bar, and Amador now works as a security technician.

"Like Siamese Twins they hang onto each other as they are born because they are afraid to be born. When one falls, they both fall because they are stuck to each other," Amador says to Santa. Of the remaining three who are jobless, only Lino (Egido) is actively going to interviews and filling out applications. Unfortunately, he is a 50-year-old man who is competing with 20ish people. He sweats profusely when he is nervous, and has been reduced to borrowing his 20-something son's sweaters and using hair dye to make himself look younger.

Lino is an example of one of the most typical victims of the current unemployment problem - an older person who is suddenly jobless, has very minimal high tech skills and education, and is living in an area that is economically depressed. He knows that he should relocate to find the type of employment that he is used to in order to support his lifestyle, but he can't uproot his family or get out from under a mortgage. In this scenario, the limited number of jobs are probably more targeted to younger people - for less money.

Jose (Tosar) is married to Ana, who has become the family breadwinner. Ana (Nieve de Medina) works very long shifts in a tuna packing company. Her legs are a constant source of pain from being on her feet all day, and she can't seem to rid herself of the fish stench on her body. Jose loves his wife, but is bothered by the fact that she works while he does not. He is insecure and is very suspicious that she is having an affair with a co-worker and will eventually leave him. His fears and insecurities about Ana shut down any communication between them and cause him to drink more than he should.

Santa (Bardem looking older and less athletic through a receding hairline and 30-40 pound weight gain) is the leader of the group. He is a womanizer, but remains full of pride, ads humor to their situation, and still manages to keep dreaming about the future. Just when you begin to believe that Santa is living in a world of fantasy, you will catch enough glimpses into his insecurities and problems to endear his character to you. He never shows this side to his friends.

Rico (Joaquin Clement) runs the small bar where the friends hang out. He is generous with allowing his unemployed friends to drink and run up bar tabs that will probably go unpaid. Rico's teenage daughter Nata hangs out in the bar after school and becomes a sympathetic listener to the group. Nata (Aida Folch) flirts with Santa (a crush!), but happily the film does not cross any of the lines of good taste that the Almodovar film did.

Amador (Celso Bugallo) is a prickly type who, despite his complaints and negativity about everything, will also buy a few rounds for his friends. He is very secretive about the personal aspects of his life, especially when asked how soon wife will be returning from visiting her family.

I enjoyed this film because the acting was exceptional. The director was able to take a very serious subject, gather a very believable group of actors to depict it, and have a movie that was able to portray the complexity of emotions that make us human.

The presentation is very middle class, but in this case they are the economic class that has been most effected with unemployment. There was enough humor to keep the film enjoyable and not overly depressing. At times the characters are angry and afraid like in the more strictly realistic films. They try to cope on a day to day basis and in many different ways with the problem, while also attempting to maintain some form of control over their lives.

Unemployment is a serious problem that has affected millions of people throughout the world. We will (as viewers) follow the group of friends in Los Lunes al Sol through numerous personal situations that include rage, jealousy, court appearances, interviews, and death (was it a suicide or an accident?) Through the brilliant performances of the cast, the film does a wonderful job in portraying the very real effects of unemployment on self-esteem and personal relationships among middle aged people.



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