TIFF 2020 review: Monday (Argyris Papadimitropoulos)

C. P. Cavafy begins his famous poem “The City” with these lines: “You said ‘I’ll go to another country, go to another shore, find another city better than this one’“, and such a feeling, the need to constantly wander through different places and meet different people in hopes of finding a safe harbor is precisely what all narratives might have in common. They are about the need to belong, because in the heart of every journey, even in the longest odyssey, there is at its end the will for shelter, for a home. Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ Monday is no exception.

In the film, we follow the steps of two ex-pats that for different reasons ended up leaving their countries and finding a place to stay in Greece. Here shown not as a paradisiac destination with beautiful islands and beaches, even though such sceneries are there. But Papadimitropoulos shoots Greece almost completely from inside his characters’ apartments that always seem to be crowded with people, parties, and memorabilia of their long-gone past lives that insisted on leaving something behind. In a sense their lives are like Greece itself, always surrounded by too much history and people passing by while contemplating whether to stay. Again, in the words of Cavafy, “Wherever I turn, wherever I look, I see the black ruins of my life, here, where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.

Amongst all that past and rush, Mickey (Sebastian Stan) and Chloe (Denise Gough) meet each other, spend a night together, and end up falling in love. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about this project is how Papadimitropoulos manages to sustain a constant feeling of foreignness even though he is using a very tired narrative formula: the one with strangers meeting in a foreign city and falling in love with each other. But also because he is filming in his own homeland, Greece, more than this being the first project entirely shot in English by the director. Mickey and Chloe are constantly facing walls when it comes to getting to know each other and for every good moment, for every night of spontaneous sex and binge-drinking, there is something cultural, a linguistic expression, an unknown path that leads to a dead-end street. In other words, just like living in a different city.

Mickey has already lived abroad for over seven years and even has a kid with whom he tries to create a relationship. Chloe on the other hand is new in Greece, and there are some professional troubles and personal relationships still haunting her. They may be in love, but they will never experience Greece or foreignness the same way, for they are not on the same page. Their apartment may act as a new home, but some furniture had to be burned or thrown away to accommodate two lives in a small space. Sebastian Stan’s performance elevates the film, whether he is alone in the scene or sharing the screen with Denise Gough. Their chemistry is great; however, it feels like the film is too stuck on the idea of people meeting by chance and spending some time together to fully explore the potential of the actors and everything they deliver.

Going back to Cavafy, the poem finishes in a bittersweet tone after the poet realizes that the time lost in the search for a place to belong is never coming back, and in the end all the cities and shores look the same because anywhere one goes, there is no way to escape from who you are, from your own history. It follows you like a shadow:

“You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
You’ll always end up in this city.”

Monday is, then, a film about lonely people who decided to feel less lonely by sharing a space together. Sometimes they love each other, desire each other, and often they hate each other.