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Mondays In The Sun Review

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Laid off from the local shipyard, Santa (Bardem) and his friends hang out in a bar, nursing their injured pride and political convictions. Looking out for each other, they survive on a day-to-day basis, but despair lurks around every corner.

★★★★

On the back of Mondays In The Sun, lazy critics will dub director Aranoa 'the Spanish Ken Loach', when he's actually 'the Spanish Alan Bleasdale'. Like Boys From The Blackstuff, this film - which swept the Goya Awards in 2003 - treads the fine line between comedy and tragedy.

It alternates the plight of unemployed individuals with a group portrait of male bonding, while throwing defiant humour into the face of poverty and humiliation. Redundancy may damage their macho pride, but these are true working-class heroes who want to earn their keep, not sponge off the state or their wives.

Leading this gaggle of bar room philosophers is Javier BardemÆs Santa. With his beard and beer belly, Bardem again proves - as with his baldy, bed-ridden performance in The Sea Inside - he is an actor without a shred of vanity. With a 21st century run encompassing an Oscar nomination for Before Night Falls and near misses for The Dancer Upstairs and The Sea Inside, his status as a contemporary great is cemented.

Bardem is excellent, but the entire ensemble cast is his equal. Sometimes words aren't necessary because one look at their faces tells the whole story.

Like The Full Monty, this film personalises rather than politicises unemployment - without making a song and dance about it.

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