Directed by Tommy Wirkola, “What Happened to Monday” is easily seen as one in a line of films looking at a rather bleak near future. In the case of this particular near future, the continued havoc we have wrought on the planet has drastically shifted the way things work so that not only is there a broad one child policy, but the state has become exceptionally authoritarian in its implementation of said policy.
Well, I say that the state is authoritarian due to the checkpoints and general sense of fear the movie evinces. Seemingly there are still free and fair elections even if the United States itself may not exist. While the movie does offer an idea up front of how the world might have arrived at this point, there are still definitely lingering questions that it refuses to answer. The opening fast-forward from our day to the dystopian future leaves one with more questions than it answers, and feels like it exists so that the story the filmmakers want to offer—the script is from Max Botkin & Kerry Williamson—can be told as opposed to actually being fully considered.
That whole not fully considered thing is, in fact, a great way to think of the entire movie. Repeatedly, the audience finds themselves stopping and wondering exactly how or why things work the way they do, and not just in terms of the larger world, but also this specific story.
As for those details—because this is a review and we should get to the details eventually—”What Happened to Monday” stars Noomi Rapace as Monday. She also plays Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Rather than being days of the week (as interesting as that might be), Rapace is each member of a group of septuplets. While all seven live together in a single apartment, due to the one child policy, they can’t go out into the world together. Consequently, they pretend to be a single person in public, with each group member allowed to venture out on her day of the week.
Honestly, it’s a fascinating concept – how do these seven women go about being both separate individuals and a single amalgam? How does that work? How do they reconcile the various problems that have to occur? That concept, however, is not something with which “Whatever Happened to Monday” is terribly interested. Instead, very early on Monday disappears and the other six struggle to figure out what’s going on.
For their part, the audience struggles to figure out why to care. While it has to be difficult for Rapace to portray so many people in a single film, each septuplet is seen as having a few defining differences from the others and yet, very little in common except a long shared history. Despite the fact that they have been pulling off this track of convincing the world they are one person, the audience sees very little to indicate that these women could possibly make it happen.
To go into any sort of depth about what actually happened to Monday and the rabbit hole these women go down to work it all out is, in some sense, a spoiler, and I’d rather not delve much into it. The movie is largely a cat-and-mouse (mice, really, because septuplets) thriller, but it isn’t one that goes anywhere interesting. In part this is because the movie doesn’t do a great job building this near future and in part it’s because those little differences between the septuplets are used to solve the problem in a way that feels overly engineered.
Another part of the problem is that there are far too few fully formed characters opposite the septuplets. Glenn Close appears in the film as the head of the agency who instituted the one child policy, and Willem Dafoe is the grandfather of the septuplets. The former is given too little to do and the latter is in too little of the film.
“What Happened to Monday” winds up much more an inviting premise than a full execution. Even if Rapace proves that she can act opposite herself, the characters she is portraying quickly find themselves in a bland web of intrigue and with too few moments in their larger group, which is far more interesting than anything else the movie has going on. In a world full of dystopian futures (or presents), this one doesn’t do much to keep the audience involved.
photo credit: Netflix