At first glance, Monday seems about as conventional as you’d expect from a whirlwind romance between two Americans living overseas. It has the standard meet-cute, a string of set pieces prolonging their chance encounter, and of course the grand gesture that will determine whether or not their intense connection will last longer than a single, simmering weekend. If you don’t spot the runtime, you might even think this is a short film, but no, everything mentioned thus far only occurs in the first act.
Directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos (Suntan), Monday is, at its core, a story about collision. It’s about what happens when two people of two very different types of self-destructive behaviors collide both sexually and emotionally. There’s Mickey (Sebastian Stan), a free-wheeling DJ who’s lived in Greece for seven years and has no plans of doing, well, anything with his life. It’s no wonder he quickly attracts the eye of Chloe (Denise Gough), who at this point in her life wants to finally break away from the glut of responsibilities and expectations that may have held her back throughout her 30s.
Essentially, Monday charts an ongoing relationship using key weekends set over an unspecified amount of time, akin to “Mornings” from “Master of None.” While the Before trilogy managed to outline the highs, lows, and in-betweens of a relationship over the course of several decades, Monday condenses this “morning after” exploration into a single, admittedly long film at 116 minutes. By the end, this heart-wrenching film exemplifies what it’s really like to look back on a relationship that paradoxically feels incredibly short, but also entirely eventful. It also helps that Monday captures both the fantasy and the reality of finding someone new.
It’s a neat trick that Papadimitropoulos manages to pull off by the grace of Stan and Gough’s heaps of chaotic chemistry, which often swerves from mundane to unhinged. Some will no doubt be put off by the tragedy of their attraction, particularly in how some behaviors are either completely ignored, or bottled up for later. It may not be intentional, but one could make an easy case for Monday being the quintessential movie about what Millennials will start to go through as more of them age into their 40s.
There’s just something wistfully striking about watching two actors who are clearly too old to be living life like they’re still 25. The film often frames their erratic behavior in such a way that you can easily get swept up in the raw ecstasy of their connection — this is a true case of sex being a meaningful plot device, particularly in how their intimacy gradually changes in tone and energy throughout the film. Like the characters, however, you’re likely to look back on what has transpired with both regret and introspection.
Monday is as honest and passionate about its characters as it is in love with its setting. Greece feels like a realistic destination, here, one where a ho-hum street corner can be transformed into a ritualistic rave sparked by a single match on a couch. It’s easy to see why our nomadic love interests can’t seem to shake the promise of living in a world where they might feel forever young, even as the harsher realities of this place come bearing down on them, eventually.
The film certainly falls short in its repetition and gratuitous cringe, specifically involving a party scene that feels overwritten and under-realized in terms of how Mickey and Chloe ultimately walk away from the event. The ending, too, comes down hard on just about everyone, but even a film this long somehow still feels like it’s missing just one last scene. Still, its final shot says just about everything a director can probably say without actually saying it. As a getaway romance that can’t be contained, Monday is sure to please, at least for its first hour or so. From there, audiences will definitely be on their own if they want to let themselves fall further in love.
IFC Films will release Monday in theaters on April 16.
Photo: Despina Spyrou