Along with some like-minded films by American John Sayles and Brit Ken Loach, Spanish filmmaker Fernando Leon de Aranoa's "Mondays in the Sun" has emerged as one of the stronger cinematic portraits of the frustrations of the working man.
While some of the situations are very specific — they were drawn from real-life events that took place in de Aranoa's homeland — the movie's themes are universal. (Hopefully the language barrier — the film is in Spanish but includes English subtitles — won't discourage American audiences from giving it a look.)
At times the film feels a bit episodic, as if de Aranoa had too much material and trimmed out transitional scenes that might have made it flow more smoothly. But that's a minor quibble with what's otherwise a strongly constructed and effective drama.
"Mondays in the Sun" features yet another terrific lead performance by Javier Bardem, who stars as Santa, one of a group of aging boat yard workers having a hard time adjusting to unemployment.
The fortysomething Santa has been getting into trouble of late — including a legal problem that just won't go away. And then there's his nearly constant carousing.
Still, he and his friends have one remaining refuge from the rather depressing reality: a wharf-side bar owned by Rico (Joaquin Climent). Though even his patience with his sometimes-whiny regulars seems to be coming to an end.
Screenwriters de Aranoa and Ignacio del Moral invest a lot of time developing these characters, most of whom emerge as flesh-and-blood creations. (Es-
pecially Celso Bugallo's Amador, whose heartbreaking character arc gives the film added depth.)
And as expected, Bardem helps ground the film in reality. As the self-destructive Santa, his character's frustrations and confusions feel very real, very relatable.
His is the strongest performance in the ensemble. Aida Folch, an up-and-coming Spanish actress, manages to hold her own, and her Nata is probably the smartest character of this bunch.
"Mondays in the Sun" is rated R for occasional use of strong sexual profanity and crude sexual talk, a brief sex scene and violence (a brief brawl, as well as an act of vandalism). Running time: 113 minutes.