Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
What’s better than watching Noomi Rapace in a film? Watching Noomi Rapace act against six other versions of herself! What Happened to Monday is an interesting example of a modern-day sci-fi film in which a majority of the weight of the story is carried on the back of lead actress Noomi Rapace and the seven versions of her that occupy the screen at any given point in the film. Also starring Willem Dafoe and Glen Close, What Happened to Wednesday is a shining example of what happens when a director has a great idea for a story but opts instead for flash over substance. This 2017 Netflix film looks like it might be an enjoyable ride, but fails to remove itself from all of the tropes established by dystopian films that have come before it.
What Happened to Monday is about a future world in which overpopulation is the biggest threat facing humanity. In response, the Child Allocation Bureau (C.A.B) is formed and a one child per family policy is enacted. Any siblings are put into pods and cryogenically frozen for a future in which overpopulation is not an issue. Terrence Settman’s (Willem Dafoe) estranged daughter gives birth to septuplets and she dies in the process. Terrence takes the seven sisters (Noomi Rapace) and hides them from the C.A.B. He names each one of them after a different day of the week and teaches each of them to take on one singular identity of Karen Settman. Each girl is allowed to leave the apartment they share on her day of the week (Sunday can leave the apartment on Sunday, Monday can leave on Monday, etc.) and when they leave, they each pretend to live the life of Karen Settman. On Monday, Monday leaves the house like she normally does, however that night she does not return. Each of the sisters fear the worst and on Tuesday, Tuesday leaves the house to figure out what happened to Monday. From there, the lie that is Karen Settman quickly falls apart as each of the girls find themselves fighting against the C.A.B in order to protect their lives, and figure out what happened to Monday.
The only thing remotely enjoyable about this film was watching Noomi Rapace try to out-act herself. It’s amusing to watch Rapace take on a different identity with each of the sisters she is supposed to be playing. The downside with this story that focuses on seven sisters is the lack of emotional attachment to each of them. We watch one of the sisters live part of a day as Karen Settman, and then we watch all of the sisters sitting around the dinner table bantering with each other in a way that is supposed to feel familial. Except it doesn’t. Instead of getting the idea that these sisters love each other, there is a false sense of tension created, which is also meant to misdirect you for something that happens later in the film. The personalities of these girls are displayed in the clothes they wear more than their words and actions. This shouldn’t be seen as a fault of Rapace, but rather the writing. In spite of the short comings of their personalities, Rapace manages to make each of the girls feel different from each of the others with some subtleties, but not in the drastic way the film wants to portray. So little time is spent with each of the girls when they are introduced, that when combined with their lack of real personality, that when one of them goes missing, it doesn’t mean anything.
One of the biggest turns offs for me and any film is when the film opens with exposition. Hunger Games opens with a wall of text that is supposed to explain how the world got to the point it did instead of letting the audience fill in the cracks. Ghost in the Shell also spends the first several minutes explaining how and why people have cybernetic implants. What Happened to Monday is another example of a film that could have benefitted from throwing the audience right into the action instead of spending time explaining everything up front. A lot of what is learned in the first few minutes of dialogue is either learned as the film progresses, or could have easily been inserted into some dialogue later in the film. The director wants this world to feel familiar to the audience, but instead, it insults their intelligence. Saying this new world is dystopian instead of showing it, eliminates some of the fear and curiosity of seeing things unfold for the first time. The second the narration started for me, it was as if I could see the entire rest of the film play out before me. The film could no longer surprise me.
The only hope for a film this generic could be the action sequences. Which, were just as unimpressive as the rest of the film. Even trying to write this review, there isn’t a single action sequence that sticks out to me. Even an underrated film like Equilibrium makes up for its shortcomings by including impressive action scenes. Only a few of the sisters even have an opportunity to partake in any action, the rest of the girls show off their “strengths” by sitting in front of a computer or using their good looks as a defense mechanism. The film puts the girls into situations to try and show off the artificial personalities created by the film instead of giving them unique skills to build their personalities.
It’s sad to say, but What Happened to Monday is just another in a long line of generic dystopian sci-fi films. It’s even worse to say that it’s another in a long line of Netflix’s increasing repertoire of subpar films and tv shows. It’s enough to keep most people interested but not enough to combat the quality that other streaming services are leaning on. Even if it’s included in a monthly subscription, this film should probably be skipped in favor of something more enjoyable.