‘What happened to Monday’ is good, but could have been better

I’d like to think that Tommy Wirkola’s new Netflix original film, “What happened to Monday” (2017), is the product of a 48-hour film project — as if the writing and directing team were given four mandatory prompts to work with and were ordered to produce a film in a relatively short time frame. 

Written by Max Botkin and Kerry Williamson, “What happened to Monday” feels like the type of caffine-fueled delusions produced under these hypothetical circumstances. 

In this case, perhaps they were given the line: “Seven minds are better than one.”

The character: Karen Settman, a woman who works in finance.

Genre(s) to choose from: Sci-fi/Action.

And prop: Sauce pan.

The result is good — if they were working under these hypothetical constraints that probably didn’t exist. Without these limits though, it’s much easier to see “What happened to Monday’s” imperfections. The confusing and rushed plot. The underdeveloped characters. The way the film feels like many books or movies that came before it. (Think: Margaret Peterson Haddix’s “Shadow Children” books meeting the movie “Blade Runner” meeting an extra long “Black Mirror” episode.)

The world Botkin, Williamson and Wirkola envisions is that of the future. The year is 2073, when the world’s biggest threat is overpopulation.

For the past 30-plus years, politician Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close) has attempted to control this problem by strictly enforcing the one child policy. Any siblings are seized and put to sleep indefinitely by the One Child Allocation bureau.

But Terrence Settman (Willem Dafoe) couldn’t separate his seven identical septuplets grandchildren (all played by the wonderful Noomi Rapace). Instead, he raised them to follow three basic rules:

  1. The girls could only go out one at a time on the day of the week in which they were named after (i.e. Monday would go out on Monday, Tuesday on Tuesday, and so on and so forth).
  2. The girls would each share the identity of Karen Settman when they left their flat.
  3. The girls could never mention they had siblings.

This ruse kept all seven siblings alive well into their thirties, but one day, Monday goes missing.

The rest of the movie revolves around the siblings trying to find out what happened to Monday without being discovered by the One Child Allocation bureau.

There’s at least seven things to like about “What happened to Monday.” Rapace is phenomenal as all seven Settman sisters, who share the same name, face and screen time, but also have very distinct haircuts and personalities. They’re the reason you like “What Happened to Monday” and why the sisters are more than Sporty Sis, Sexy Sis, Responsible Sis, Techie Sis, Rebellious Sis, Boring Sis and Spiritual Sis. Thanks to Rapace’s acting and some creative special effects from editor Martin Stoltz, you have no trouble believing that there are seven Settman sisters, who squabble and tease each other as sisters do. Without Rapace’s acting (which includes many scenes involving clever green screen work), “What Happened to Monday” would be just as forgettable as its title.

That’s not to say that this movie isn’t good. (I still gave it a thumbs up on Netflix.) But you can’t help wanting this movie to be better — to be one of those things that takes up more brain space and changes the way you think. That’s what you expect from a good sci-fi movie.

Instead, the movie feels a little stiff and off — as if the writing and directing team were also trapped within the confines of the rules they’ve created.

“What Happened to Monday” was directed by Tommy Wirkola and written by Max Botkin and Kerry Williamson. 

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