By Transmute Jun
Imagine a world running low on resources, suffering environmental disasters and losing its ability to produce enough food to feed the planet. It doesn’t sound too far off of the current issues facing our planet today. In What Happened to Monday an upcoming Netflix movie (to be released via the streaming service on August 18) a possible future is mapped out. As agricultural lands are destroyed by environmental disasters, genetically-modified food production is fast-tracked. While this solves the problem of food shortages, it also results in a spike in multiple births, compounding the problem once more. And so in 2043, a solution is posed by Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close): a strict one child per family policy. This policy is enforced rigorously by a surveillance state, requiring every citizen to wear identity bracelets that confirm their ‘approved’ status. Any siblings that are found (children born after the first) are forced to submit to cryosleep, a process that freezes them until an unknown future time when the world’s problems are solved.
It is in this world that the story of What Happened to Monday begins. Terrence Settman (Willem Dafoe) discovers that his daughter died while secretly giving birth to seven identical girls. Loathe to turn them over to the state, he raises them on his own, in hiding. Seeing as there are seven girls, he names them each after a day of the week. How they survive, how they live, and what happens when one of them (Monday) disappears, is the plotline of What Happened to Monday. Noomi Rapace, best known for her roles in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Millenium, takes on a role reminiscent of Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black as she plays all seven identical sisters, each with their own look and personality.
In a story like this, the audience needs two things to be truly engaged. First and foremost is the lead actor, and Rapace delivers well. While her character’s personalities are somewhat one-dimensional (as might be expected in a two hour film, as compared to an ongoing series) it is easy for the viewer to separate them into different people, giving each sister her own identity. The second aspect is world-building, and it is here where What Happened to Monday excels. The explanation of how our current Earth could develop into this one is brief, yet completely credible. The Draconian security measures, total government control over the daily lives of its citizens, complete lack of privacy, and revoking of many individual rights and freedoms is effortlessly depicted, and should be a warning to all of us of what extremes could occur should our society head down this path. Watching the film, I found myself drawn into this all-too-believable society where a controlling politician (Close) manipulates everyone and would do anything to ensure her own rise to power, using the world’s problems as an excuse to implement restrictive laws and monitoring of citizens. For me, it was this world-building that was actually the star of the film, supported by Rapace’s multiple performances.
Netflix has been on a tear over the last few years, producing more and more series, including anime, children’s programming, drama, and superhero stories, as well as original movies, yet the quality of its content continues to impress. I would recommend What Happened to Monday to those interested in mystery, science fiction, or dystopian stories. The film can be viewed on Netflix beginning August 18th.
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