Inspired by real laid-off shipyard workers desperately clinging to a sense of personal dignity while entering their third year on the government dole, the melancholy Spanish import "Mondays in the Sun" is thick with powerful, understated, deeply empathetic performances -- and it needs them. It's hard to feel sorry for a bunch of welfare cases who sit around drinking and barely even trying to find new jobs.
Perhaps not being familiar with the particulars of the Spanish economy provides a major disadvantage to fully understanding the characters that populate this film, which swept the 2002 Goya awards. But writer-director Fernando Leon de Aranoa doesn't seem to provide any reason beyond pure frustration and lack of momentum for his handful of sad sack laborers to spend much of their lives in a bar.
Bearded, burly, somewhat unscrupulous but full of pride and wasted intelligence, Santa (played by the impeccably poignant Javier Bardem) is a cauldron of quietly boiling indignation who exhausts his energy tilting against the system and denying his own accountability. In the course of the movie, he applies for not one job, yet he continues to fight a vandalism charge years after smashing up a streetlight during a strike -- on the grounds that the violence was the company's fault for enraging him.
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