Review: What Happened to Monday wastes its premise with every cliché in the book
The good news is this may be the dummest film of the year, so it can’t get worse than this, right?
Sci-fi films don’t really need a big budget to amaze us, but they need more than a cool idea. What Happened to Monday starts and ends on a cool idea, as it drowns on a bad script and so many clichés it could be mistaken for a first draft.
While Children of Men managed to be a thrilling film with three-dimensional characters and a well developed univers, What Happened to Monday throws world building out the window.
We begin with a long prologue with exposition which tells us that we are in the near future, in which the world’s resources have been destroyed. In order to save the world the government – which one? The American government? A coalition? We don’t know – has decided to limit each family to just one child.
Something called The Child Allocation Bureau (CAB) is created to enforce the law with the help of a futuristic wristband that also works as an all-powerful tablet that contains all your personal information. What if you move to another country? Do the wristbands work everywhere? The film doesn’t care to explain this.
Every illegal child gets send to a CAB facility to get cryogenically frozen. This becomes a bit complicated when seven sisters are born to a mother who sadly died in labor. It is now up to Willem Dafoe to take care of the sisters.
Noomi Rapace plays the role of the entire sister flock, where every sister is named after a day of the week. Monday, Tuesday and the rest share an apartment and can only go out on their respective day, and even then they all share the same identity of Karen Settman. They all play the same person, so if one of the sisters hurts a finger the rest must get a visit from a kitchen knife.
Director Tommy Wirkola tries his best with what he gets, which isn’t a lot. One gets the sense they wanted a much bigger budget, but had to change the script to accommodate the lower budget. Wirkola focuses on big scenes with many actors and choreography. This manages to entertain you enough to almost forget the rest of the film.
Wirkola has a very clear vision of the future depicted on the film, he and cinematographer José David Montero give the film a very gray and kind of sad visual style, which matches how the audience feels while watching What Happened to Monday.
The film plays with bid ideas like identity and family, and it bets everything on Noomi Rapace. Unfortunately the trick doesn’t work. Writers Max Botkin and Kerry Williamson don’t give Rapace much to work with, except from different hair colors. The sisters don’t even get to be one-dimensional, only caricatures. You don’t remember their names, despite them being incredibly easy. The film doesn’t seem interested to try and explore the consequences of the world they have created, or the lives to the sisters.
Instead we get a run-of-the-mill thriller in which lots of characters die, but we don’t care about them because we never got to know them. We don’t get to feel the struggle the sisters feel every time they hide their personalities to go outside, or know enough about their hopes and dreams to care about their fates.
What Happened to Monday suffers of obvious comparisons to the TV-show Orphan Black, despite them having very different plots. But the fact of the matter is that Tatiana Maslany has mastered the art of playing different characters and giving them completely distinctive personalities. It doesn’t help that Rapace has way less time to do the job, but it is still somewhat disappointed that we have seen this gimmick before, and done so well.
What begins as a dystopian sci-fi thriller ends up as a sort-of political thriller with unclear politics and message. What Happened to Monday works only as a warning that cool ideas and a good performance – or seven – can’t save a poorly written film.
Grade: Avoid like the plague