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PLOT: After a wild one night stand, two people find themselves involved in a blossoming love affair, one that is complicated by past relationships and the uncertainty of what comes after sex.
REVIEW: The new romantic drama MONDAY, directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos, features Sebastian Stan, and Denise Gough as a couple who engage in a tumultuous love affair. This engaging story is wildly uninhibited and fiercely intimate. What’s truly unusual is the fact that this new feature never shies away from the intense sexual nature of the relationship. And yes, both Stan and Gough fearlessly tackle the material. The two naturally maneuver through the difficulties of sex and love and reveal both of themselves emotionally, and physically – yes, it features full-frontal nudity from both the leads. Monday is the rare, R-rated, drama that treats the nudity and the sexual situations seriously, without delving into salaciousness. It’s a warm, passionate, and modern fable that avoids the trappings of the typical, overly sappy, romantic drama we usually see coming out of Hollywood.
After spending some time in the stunning beauty of Greece, Chloe (Gough) is finally planning to return to the US. However, things take a drastic turn when she is introduced to Mickey, a DJ playing at the party she’s attending. The two spend a lust filled night together, only to wake up naked on the beach. As they spend time with each other following their introduction, they discover that they both would like to take things further than a drunken night of sex. As the two become closer and closer, she decides to stay in this gorgeous land a little longer and see where her new exploration takes her. When they find that they are falling for each other, the realities of his past relations and her fears create a strain on the newfound love. Will the two find a common bond and stay together? Or will the problems they face become too difficult to make things work? It’s well worth spending time with both to find out.
The irony of the title is that nearly every sequence takes place on a Friday. We see both Chloe and Mickey meet and the instant fire they appear to create between them. Yet we also see the problematic realities set in as they run the gamut between a growing relationship, and the lure of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Director Papadimitropoulos smartly maneuvers these characters between the insane nights of partying to the very real problems of moving in together and dealing with the complexity of a new relationship. And yes, once Monday finally arrives in the film, we get a better sense of exactly where these two are heading in terms of building a partnership. It’s a fascinating dissection of two people discovering love and sexual desire for one another.
Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough are impressive here. The two find that spark instantaneously. The smart casting makes it easy to believe these two would find themselves drawn towards each other. And as easy as it could have slipped into a sappy drama, the heat between them is handled realistically and avoids that trap. The drama of these two simply moving a couch or the thrill of taking a naked drive on a scooter in full view of the public feels both intimate, alive, and honest. This may be the best performance of Stan’s career. His commitment to bringing a sense of truth to Mickey is clear, and it’s impossible to not fully appreciate just how fantastic Ms. Gough is. Considering we are supposed to entertain in their emotional entanglement, it’s nice to see that they both explore these characters in such a meaningful way.
As mentioned, the lack of overt sentimentality and romantic undertones make Monday a refreshing take on love and sex, one that you rarely see in American cinema. All too often sexuality is treated as an afterthought or something shocking. Here, Papadimitropoulos creates a very passionate and truthful take along with co-writer Rob Hayes. The script manages to bring both Chloe and Mickey into several situations that escape the problematic nature of your typical romantic feature. It’s an unapologetic look at drugs, desire, and all the obvious complications that come with it. Much like what Boaz Yakin did in last year’s sublime – and even more inventive – Aviva, Monday is fueled by a real-life examination that happens when you are intimately involved with someone. Even when the two begin to face serious obstacles, it never delves into something safe and predictable.
Monday is a wonderful change of pace when it comes to big-screen romance. The only real issue for this viewer was the final moments. It may work for others, but it didn’t quite connect. Even still, there is much to admire in this engaging romantic feature, especially the wonderful work from both Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough. Argyris Papadimitropoulos has put together a warm and passionate tale, one that manages to overcome the typical flaws of similar features. Both Chloe and Mickey are relatable, and their on-screen chemistry is especially interesting. It may not be perfect, but it’s achingly honest, and hypnotically romantic. This is an impressive feature with a smart script and terrific leading performances. See, not all Mondays are bad.