Your weekly Netflix Pick is here! This one may be more in the spirit of what the Netflix Pick was started for. What Happened to Monday is a dystopian thriller with an excellent cast, and Noomi Rapace in her best role since the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.
Sometime in the not-so-distant future the world’s population is at a critical mass. Pollution is up, and food is way down. Fossil fuels are all but done. Because of the food shortage more and more tampering takes place causing a rise in multiple births as well as birth defects. The government establishes a one child per family law, and a new agency to enforce it. The agency is led by Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close).
The small detail of the modified food causing in uptick in multi-births is a great piece of sci-fi. It preys on the current whole foods issue and the unknowingness of GMOs. It also explains how these seven came to be. A detail that the movie would have worked without, but it takes away any cynic’s remarks of ‘convenience’ in storytelling.
The story follows the Settman siblings. Seven sisters (Noomi Rapace) born in secret and tucked away from the government. The sisters are all named for a day of the week and share a single identity. Their father, Terrence (Willem Dafoe), schools the girls, trains them, and molds them into a complete person. His methods seem harsh at times but he knows the score and raises them right.
The world building is done quickly. The opening is primarily narration and some well shot footage. It goes quick and the narration never feels lazy. It doesn’t even feel like exposition. The writers, Max Botkin and Kerry Williamson, clearly spent some considerable time ironing out the details. It’s easy to imagine a lot of brilliant scenes and information laying on the cutting room floor (more accurately bytes in the recycle bin) to boil the movie down to a tight core. Botkin and Williamson have a fairly clean slate when it comes to projects they’ve worked on but What Happened to Monday is a clear indication they are writers that should be watched.
The intricacies of how seven women exist in public as one is fascinating. The movie takes a side route to the Settman siblings as children (Clara Read) being brought up by Terrence. This departure from the core story, so early on, at first may feel jarring. As the methods and education unfolded the feeling of it being out of place disappear and you’ll find yourself wanting even more.
The core story takes off like a racer after a shot. It moves at insane speed and never slows down. Since each character is named for a day of the week the movie is broken down into segments following each of the girls in turn. This way of storytelling helps separate each of Rapace’s characters and also gives each character a chance to shine. The day of the week breakdown is both literal and figurative.
Even through the third act new plot details are given and imagery is fantastic to deliver the emotional beats the story needs to feel complete. The constant discoveries and exploration never muddle the plot. The story never goes off the rails and the two-plus hour run time never feels its length.
Noomi Rapace is a fantastic actress. Best known for her work in the original (and only version worth watching) Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She’s had some more mainstream American roles but really nothing to showcase her talents. What Happened to Monday is exactly the type of role Rapace needs to sink her teeth into. Rapace does an amazing job balancing seven characters and seven personalities. She doesn’t get to take it quite as far as Tatiana Maslany got to on the amazing Orphan Black, but it’s impressive to watch just the same.
There are some really great parallels between the reality of Terrence Settman’s upbringing and how the Government misrepresents itself. Willem Dafoe, once again, proves he’s the right man for virtually any job.
What Happened to Monday is a fantastic movie that gives a brilliant actress the spotlight and a fantastic script to lean into. It’s shot well, expertly edited and keeps you hooked entirely.