By Preston Wilder
The obstetrician pauses, as if broaching a delicate subject: “Have you thought about names?”. The proud grandpa thinks about it, gazing at the newborn septuplets. “Well,” he says, “there are seven of them, so… Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday”. Good call, Gramps, the girls are going to love you for this. Just as well they’re girls instead of boys, or he might’ve named them Sleepy, Sneezy, Happy, Dopey, Grumpy, Bashful and Doc.
What Happened to Monday (formerly known, less intriguingly, as Seven Sisters) has an eye-catching concept which it cheerfully pulps into garbage. Noomi Rapace plays the seven siblings named after days of the week, but any thoughts of a virtuoso acting turn to match Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets are curtailed by director Tommy Wirkola (who made Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) and an uninspired script. The seven roles don’t allow Rapace much variation: Thursday is a little sluttier than the others (translation: she’s blonde) and Friday a little geekier (translation: she wears glasses), but the film doesn’t give any of the sibs enough character detail to make a meaningful difference. Rapace does deserve credit for acting ‘with herself’ – obviously, the seven roles were filmed separately and blended together via CGI – but even that is a necessary skill for actors these days, with so much green-screen and special effects.
Even the sci-fi aspect (such as it is) is half-baked here. The year is initially 2043, when population growth threatens to plunge the world into apocalypse (this threat is real, and featured prominently in the ‘letter to humanity’ signed by 15,000 scientists that was in the news last week) – so the government institutes a strict one-child policy, enforced by the ‘Child Allocation Bureau’ which arrests illegal siblings and puts them into “cryo-sleep”. This scenario is portrayed as full-on dystopia, but in fact it’s fair enough; the world does have too many people, as the film grudgingly acknowledges. A one-child policy isn’t new, it applied in China for 35 years – with a bureaucratic apparatus that allowed for exceptions, etc – and didn’t lead to mass riots. The script does up the ante at some point (clue: “cryo-sleep” isn’t quite what it seems) but even that is unconvincing, despite scientist Glenn Close lamenting that she dreams of “a sea of little babies, scorched by flames”.
Whether as drama or science fiction, What Happened to Monday is weak. As action, it’s slightly better – and in fact that’s mostly what the plot is reduced to, the sisters being chased by Bureau thugs and confronting them in various violent fight scenes. There’s some death-by-household-appliances (one thug is strangled with a shower cable, another conked with a clothes iron, another has boiling water thrown in his face) and quite a lot of killing baddies with their own guns, Monday and her sisters proving quite adept for girls who were raised by their grandpa (Willem Dafoe) and have always spent six days out of seven cooped up in an old house. That’s the hook, incidentally: each sister can only leave the house on the day that bears her name. No wonder Sunday never seems to get any shopping done.
The film isn’t really so bad, just annoyingly muddled and simplistic considering how potentially strong its premise is. Wirkola seems weak with actors – it can’t be easy getting Glenn Close to give such a stilted reading of “What have you done?” – and weirdly fixated on body parts: there are severed fingers and gouged-out eyes, along with copious bloodletting. The result is a sense of inhumanity, or perhaps fake humanity. The Noomis aren’t real, they’re computer-generated – just as these bodies aren’t real, they splatter and bleed and get chopped up without the gravitas we associate with bodies. ‘Relax,’ you might say, ‘it’s just an action flick’ – but an action flick like Atomic Blonde did at least supply some physicality. This is just soulless.
So what did happen to Monday? The mystery makes for some mild intrigue, though the script isn’t clever when it comes to detective work – Tuesday, posing as Monday, having just learned from a secretary that ‘she’ left early the previous night: “Um… Where did I go again?” – and the plot doesn’t really make sense anyway. The climax cross-cuts between Close making a speech and two different fights in progress – but the three scenes don’t play off each other, so the frantic cross-cutting comes across as desperation. What Happened to Monday is mid-level junk with ideas above its station; you could have the Seven Samurai riding in on the Seven Wonders of the World, and this still wouldn’t be a good movie.
DIRECTED BY Tommy Wirkola
STARRING Noomi Rapace, Glenn Close, Willem Dafoe
UK/France/Belgium 2017 123 mins