Modern romantic dramas are few and far between, so I tend to lap each one up like John Mills drinking the beer at the end of Ice Cold in Alex. I prefer romantic dramas to rom-coms, but we don’t get many and those we do get tend to not be very good. Since the success of the brilliant Like Crazy in 2011, Drake Doremus has somewhat cornered the market in this genre, but has never reached those same heights since, with Equals (2015), Newness (2017) and Endings and Beginnings (2019) all being fairly damp squibs, while still having some sexy moments. Before his tragic and untimely death, Anton Yelchin was in several – including 5 to 7 (directed by Victor Levin, 2014) and Porto (directed by Gabe Klinger, 2016). Spanish actress Laia Costa has also made many films in this genre.
Sebastian Stan has been in a few surprisingly sexy films, considering the fact that he is so strongly identified with playing Bucky Barnes in Disney’s MCU. These include the more comedic Spread (directed by David Mackenzie, 2009), Destroyer (Karyn Kusama, 2018), the aforementioned Doremus film Endings and Beginnings and now Monday, which features quite a lot of nudity. Disney have somehow allowed it be released (and for Stan to promote it by mooning on Insta), despite The Falcon and the Winter Soldier still being aired on Disney+.
Of course, if we look outside of the US, there is more in the way of romance on offer – with Germany’s Christian Petzold and Almodovar’s melodramas, amongst many others. It is perhaps unsurprising then this new entry in the genre comes from a Greek writer-director – Argyris Papadimitropoulos. Monday stars acclaimed Irish actress Denise Gough and (some may forget, Romanian) Sebastian Stan as two Americans who collide in Greece, sparking a whirlwind romance that leads lawyer Chloe (Gough) to upend her life and stay in Athens with DJ Mickey (Stan).
The film is structured around a succession of self-destructive and hedonistic Fridays – they get drunk, engage in public nudity and generally make a series of poor life choices. This film features one of the most awkward house parties I’ve ever witnessed, as well as a (more common) disastrous wedding scene. Mickey has a son and perhaps understandably, his mother is wary of the kid spending time with his Dad, despite him having a fully-formed child’s bedroom in the apartment he squats in (thanks to a rich friend). The film builds towards Mickey and Chloe being allowed to have some time with the child – the inevitable Monday that looms after this series of never-ending Fridays. The couple (and the film) go wildly off the rails towards the end, which results in some brief prison time, but Papadimitropoulos just about claws things back for a very good final shot.
That’s the thing about Monday – it seems like yet another poorly-executed take on the romantic drama for (supposed) grown ups and it is easy to dismiss as an ill-advised footnote in the two central actors’ careers. However, you may find, as I did, that it actually stays with you – you might find yourself thinking about it after the credits roll, find yourself with nagging questions that you have to discuss with the few friends who have seen it – and therefore, it can’t be written off as a total failure. It is easy to get frustrated with two people in their late 30s/early 40s acting liking a couple of 19-year-olds on a gap year. It is easy to feel jealous of two people with almost no responsibilities (or seemingly, rent to pay) living as if perpetually on holiday in the Mediterranean (especially considering the last year). But like a car crash, there is something hypnotic about watching a passionate couple, with a relationship built on lust, head towards inevitable implosion.
Sebastian Stan has been making way more interesting choices of role and film than most of his (core cast) MCU counterparts, including Logan Lucky, I Tonya, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Devil All the Time as well as the aforementioned (absolutely brilliant neo-noir) Destroyer. This is all to be encouraged, as is the continuation of the romantic drama – let’s just hope that we get better ones and (perhaps not entirely unrelated) we see more women writer-directors taking them on, which would certainly provide an alternative viewpoint. While the writing of Monday is definitely uneven and messy, much like the central characters themselves – there’s something oddly compelling about Mickey and Chloe. Despite your better judgment, you may find yourself rooting for these two crazy kids (cough, bordering on middle-aged adults) and wondering how they’re doing, which means Papadimitropoulos has created two fully-realised characters, something definitely aided by Gough and Stan’s performances. A surprisingly involving romantic drama that gets under your skin and lingers with you.
Monday is available on VOD in the US now.