It’s quite difficult to balance a budding onscreen romance in a way that is grounded, tender, and thoughtful. Often, filmmakers can’t seem to create realistic tension without derailing an entire relationship with little closure or satisfaction. Such is the case with Monday from director Argyris Papadimitropoulos. Co-written by Papadimitropoulos and Rob Hayes, Monday begins with a lot of potential before going off in a various of directions, none of them necessarily good. Monday fumbles its way through after a strong start and isn’t interested in exploring or developing its characters as individuals or as a couple.
Chloe (Denise Gough), an immigration lawyer, and Mickey (Sebastian Stan), a former musician-turned-DJ, are two American expats living in Athens, Greece. Through a mutual friend, the pair meet at a party one night and hit it off. Their relationship begins as a whirlwind romance — Chloe and Mickey can’t get enough of each other and it’s one of those weekends neither of them would ever forget. The hard part comes when Chloe decides to, after one thrilling and romantic weekend, stay in Greece rather than return to the U.S. However, as soon as she and Mickey decide to be together, they start facing the challenges of being in an actual relationship and they aren’t ready to come to terms with the realities of their situation or each other.
Monday barely sets up or develops the relationship before it starts to poke holes in it. The film seems intent to explore the hardships of relationships and how difficult it can be to leave bad ones — be it for fear of loneliness, wanting emotional support, or a plethora of other reasons. However, Monday doesn’t do the work to deepen the relationship or the characters, which ultimately hinders the emotional impact of their unraveling. Papadimitropoulos is heavily focused on the superficiality of Chloe and Mickey’s relationship, haphazardly throwing in meaningful moments without much follow-up. Early on, sex scenes and laughter are meant to convey how much fun the pair have together, but it isn’t enough.
Mickey and Chloe are obviously attracted to each other, but is it love? The awkwardness with which they communicate is endearing at first, especially as they navigate where their relationship is potentially headed. But the film doesn’t put in much effort after things between them get real. Abrupt and heated arguments aren’t substitutes for depth and development, yet Monday relishes in the former without expounding on its significance to the characters. This is especially true with Chloe, who gets much less character development than Mickey, whose broody countenance is mistaken for personality. The audience doesn’t learn about her past relationship until it’s far too late, rendering a few of the narrative’s big moments emotionally hollow.
Chloe’s relationship realizations are often sorted through Gough’s minute expressions — a quick upturn of pursed lips undercutting exclamations of happiness, subdued eyes that flicker and remain downcast speak volumes with regards to her inner turmoil. Gough does a lot with a thin script that allows Chloe to feel like a real, complicated person just sorting through a variety of confusing feelings. Exploring these aspects of her past would have made Chloe a richer character, as well as explained why she’s attached to Mickey despite their issues. What affects the film the most is its overall lack of direction. Monday doesn’t know what it wants to be and loses its grasp on its plot and characters early on. No matter the obstacles or what Chloe and Mickey manage to overcome, the film never finds its footing.
Monday is more taken with idyllic adventures around Athens than with its characters, while also treating its setting as little more than background noise. It’s honestly a strange choice that Papadimitropoulos would choose to focus on American expats living in Greece since they both have very little interaction with the culture or its people, which often takes away from the influence of the city. Mickey is unwilling to learn, appreciate, and communicate with the culture and people around him. This translates to his relationship with Chloe, which makes the film a tedious chore to sit through, its potential lost amid a sea of half-formed ideas and little follow-through.
Monday is playing in theaters April 16, 2021. The film is 115 minutes long and is rated R for sexual content, nudity/graphic nudity, drug use, and pervasive language.