Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough's Chemistry Carries Monday's Manic Musing on Messy Relationships

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Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough's Chemistry Carries <i>Monday</i>'s Manic Musing on Messy Relationships

In director Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ Monday, it is almost never actually Monday. The film is instead told through a succession of eventful or mundane Fridays that serve as windows into the progressing relationship between two Americans living in Athens, who turn a whirlwind weekend tryst into a long-term domestic partnership—documenting all of the passion, conflict and baggage that surfaces between the lovers along the way.

Co-written by Papadimitropoulos and Rob Hayes, Monday is a romantic comedy hell-bent on depicting sensual sparks and mounting domestic resentment in equal measure, effectively serving as a tonic to the generic brand of happily ever afters heavily associated with the genre. Mickey (Sebastian Stan) is a thirtysomething DJ in a party-induced state of arrested development who finds a chance to change his lonesome ways when he meets fellow thirtysomething Chloe (Denise Gough) at a random house party one hot summer evening. Their chemistry is amplified throughout the night’s boozy bender, culminating in the couple awaking—fully nude—on a Grecian beach as locals humorously admonish their indecent exposure. After a brief pit stop at a local jail that could care less about the Americans’ racy proclivities, the two proceed to spend the rest of the weekend together in intimate bliss, leading Chloe to make the impulsive decision to blow off her job offer in Chicago and stay in Athens to pursue a partnership with a man she only just met.

The premise itself might seem like one set up for failure, but Monday manages to stray away from the petty voyeurism of blow-out fights in order to convey something deeper about love and relationships. While Mickey certainly has a fair share of growing up to do and Chloe has issues with being honestly vulnerable (two characterizations that fall into genre trappings which Monday otherwise attempts to eschew), the exploration of the characters’ relationship never feels overly cliché. What sabotages the viewer’s ability to become fully invested in their relationship is the nearly two-hour runtime, front-loads the film with drawn out scenes that do little to actually solidify the characters as a domestic unit or bask in the beauty of Greece. Monday’s saving grace is definitely its third act, which fuses together batshit humor and juicy interpersonal drama which solidly encapsulate the tandem beauty and pain of imperfect relationships. If the comedic streak had been amplified throughout and the initial expository elements subdued, the film would have struck a much more harmonious and consistent tone.

For a film that carries itself on the chemistry between two characters alone, Monday is irreparably indebted to Gough and the multifaceted emotions her character grapples with throughout the relationship. Everything from steamy sex scenes to drug-induced benders benefit from Gough’s electric screen presence, her uninhibited attitude towards nudity and building an intimate rapport with Stan adding both comedic levity and convincing compassion. While many viewers will undoubtedly flock to see the film for Stan’s Adonis-like physique, Monday would surely flounder if not for the lived-in chemistry cultivated in equal measures between Stan and Gough, with the latter’s alluring smile admittedly doing much of the heavy lifting.

There will surely be comparisons between Monday and Noah Baumbach’s 2019 Marriage Story, if only for the depiction of heterosexual domestic tensions and sputtering romance. While Marriage Story is at least marginally more deserving of its lengthy runtime, Monday is certainly more optimistic and open to the idea of making a relationship work despite its obvious shortcomings. There is beauty in this exploration, particularly for those who feel embittered by the genre’s polarizing depiction of relationships as zero sum games. No relationship is as idyllic as it seems when first cultivated; being hurt and betrayed are unfortunately byproducts of building a life with another human being. Whether or not these inevitable frictions are worth working through is subjective to every couple.

Monday’s rumination on the struggles inherent in sharing a life with someone who was once merely a stranger makes the film worth the watch—perfectly poetic if not somewhat overwrung. Though the film would have greatly benefited from being cut down by a half hour, the ensuing payoff is worth the initial plod. There is also a lingering desire to have seen more of Greece and the locals who inhabit its metropolitan capital, as the Americans’ perspective often evokes an overarching air of baffling indifference to their picturesque surroundings. Yet this is probably the entire point of Monday’s musing: The confines of long-term partnership often shroud the participants’ eyes to the beauty of their surroundings, leaving them to believe that the person standing in front of them is the end all be all of their newfound existence.

Director: Argyris Papadimitropoulos
Writers: Argyris Papadimitropoulos, Rob Hayes
Stars: Sebastian Stan, Denise Gough
Release Date: April 16, 2021 (IFC Films)

Natalia Keogan is a Queens-based writer who covers film, music and culture, with particular interest in the horror genre and depictions of sexuality and gender. You can read her work in Narratively, Filmmaker Magazine and Paste, and find her on Twitter.

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