Los Lunes al sol


Los Lunes al sol
Mondays in the sun (2002)
   The origin of Los lunes al sol can be traced to a series of organized actions carried out by a group of unemployed French workers in the mid-1990s. Director Fernando León de Aranoa read about their attempts to become visible through civil disobedience and started gathering ideas and testimonies for what would become a film about a group of unemployed friends, ex-workers at a closed-down shipyard, who spend their days "in the sun," whiling away the hours, unable to find jobs, and suffering the psychological sequels of long-term unemployment. In choosing this title, the director intended to introduce a horizon of hope to the problem of unemployment.
   In the film, Santa (Javier Bardem), Jose (Luis Tosar), and Paulino (José Angel Egido) worked together and supported their families. When they refused to accept punishing conditions they were fired. Some co-workers accepted the company's deal, but as soon as they managed to reduce staff, the company closed. The sequels have a deep impact on their personal lives and their families. Santa, the film's protagonist, attempts to stand up to the system that has crushed him with pointless love affairs and long hours of drinking. José feels the humiliation of his wife being the breadwinner, a feeling that leads him to pathological jealousy. Finally, Paulino, also worried about his family, keeps on applying for jobs, but slowly realizes that his time in employment may be over as companies will only hire younger staff. Important sections of the film are set in a bar where these characters spend their evenings with other friends, including Amador (Celso Bugallo), an old worker suffering from terminal depression.
   The film is dominated by an authoritative performance by Bardem, who went through a careful physical transformation, gaining weight and growing a thick beard, in order to distance the character from the actor's popular public image. He conveys the dignity and honesty of a man he sees as "defeated but not tamed." At some points, the film shows its explicit agenda: in labor conflicts, workers either fight together or they sink together. But most importantly, León de Aranoa cares for his characters not just as types, but as human beings with real lives: their fates are not fully resolved in the plot, but their inherent dignity finally triumphs with a small act of rebellion.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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