What Happened to Monday, a dystopian look at a technologically very advanced but ethically quietly regressive future – and isn’t that always the case with dystopias – aired on Netflix on the same day as Death Note and was thus unfortunately overshadowed by the much more well-known ‘franchise’.
And what a shame that is because WHtM is spectacular.
The story takes place in a society that allows families to only have one child because over-population is on the verge of destroying the globe. All younger siblings are rounded up by the government and put into cryo-sleep until the earth has recovered enough to let population increase again. The film’s seven protagonists are all siblings. And identical septuplets at that. Which is why they are able to pull off the elaborate lie they have created together with their grandpa, played by Willem Dafoe (whom we are glad to see in a very interesting role again). Each sibling is named after a weekday and they are allowed to go out into the world on the day that is their name. While they are outside, they all adopt the identity of Karen Settman.
On Monday, however, Monday goes missing. And thus, a fast-paced chase to the death is triggered. Together with the remaining six siblings the audience is led down different paths in trying to find Monday and witnesses intrigue, death, fear, love and, finally, betrayal. Without giving away the ending, some of the seven Settmans die, some live but ultimately good does win over evil. Naturally.
Across the board, the performances were riveting! Especially, and to no surprise, that of Noomi Rapace. With the help of split-screen and actor-doubles she makes every single Settman sibling someone you want to root for. And she does so even though the audience barely gets to spend time with them due to the story being more action and less character driven. Each sibling has a specific trait and when I first laid eyes on all of them in one room, their distinctive looks felt almost cartoonish. There’s the computer nerd/hacker, the party girl, the hard-bodied spitfire, etc. But despite their defining characteristic taking center stage in these performances, they do not seem cartoonish at all anymore. The traits seem more like facts and once they’re established, we smoothly transition to the next plot point. As I have mentioned, all siblings become extremely likable at different points in the story but if I had to choose my favorite, it’d have to be Saturday. Her carefree attitude might seem a tad reckless in the face of danger and death but she pulls through when she is needed; she’s reliable and at the same time has a vulnerability in her heart that could make you forgive any and all flaws.
What makes this film even more enjoyable, beyond the performances and characters, is the action. Not only is it particularly well choreographed, it is unbelievably original. One of the most intriguing and thrilling fight sequences happened relatively early in the Settmans’ appartment where Monday’s six sisters fight and ultimately kill a handful of deadly government agents. I was gripping the edge of my seat during this scene where random household items were turned into weapons, intelligence and tricks won over brute strength and the sisters had each other’s backs like only siblings could.
The only thing that could have actually ruined the film, though, would have been an ending where it turns out the antagonist had sold out her family for the prospect of a relationship. And I am so glad, this movie chose to avoid such a cliché-ridden route.
However, there are two issues I do want to address with this film. The first is quite straightforward. The death of some protagonists seemed rushed and somewhat unnecessary to me. I say ‘somewhat’ because ultimately it would have made little sense for some of them to remain alive until the end. But the unexplained way they were located by the police and their swift deaths almost seemed like nothing more than the government’s lethal bucket-list. I’ll chalk it up to the limited time frame.
The other, actually quite annoying problem with this film, as well as with most dystopian the-government-is-the-enemy stories, is that the public seems to consist solely of utter idiots. The earth is dancing on the edge of self-induced annihilation. There is not enough money for food and shelter for everyone. More people than ever are living on the street and suffer from over-population’s catastrophic consequences. And yet, the general public honestly believes that the government would spend MILLIONS on cryo-technology for the unlikely eventuality of a safer, better future. People are herded to checkpoints where they have to assure the police they are an only child, siblings are ripped away from their families in plain daylight, men, women and children without siblings are living in homeless communities. The majority of generations that are allowed to live a ‘free’ life are treated like dirt and yet EVERYONE is shocked when it is revealed that cryo-sleep is a myth, the surplus children have been murdered for years.
Why has not a single soul suspected this? Why is there no political opposition fighting for the rights of families? Or at least political rebels? Understandably, going into depth with such additional story lines would have taken too much time for WHtM but leaving it out completely, not even a mention of it on a poster in the street or something akin to that, just makes the public look ignorant and the government
a) reckless for not considering the possibility of this secret getting out
as well as
b) dictatorial (which makes little sense considering this society still holds elections).
Future dystopia authors/screenwriters: please create a more believably smart population.
Despite these flaws, however, I immensely enjoyed myself watching What Happened to Monday and if you’re a fan of sci-fi, badass characters or ethical dilemmas (or all three?) don’t miss this one!!! 7/10, would recommend.
Glad to see Netflix is still releasing good movies!