Review: ‘What Happened to Monday’ Full of Action, Lacks Substance

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Seven sisters, each named after one day in the week, must keep their separate identities a secret in Netflix’s original action thriller.

In Netflix’s latest original action thriller, overpopulation has strained the resources of the planet. Food is scarce, cities are crowded and pollution is killing the world.

To ensure the survival of the planet, Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close) enacts the Child Allocation Act, limiting each family to one child. Other children will be cryogenically frozen and reawakened when the human population reaches a more stable level.

After the passage of this act, Terrence Settman’s daughter dies giving birth to seven identical sisters. Not trusting the government and wishing to honor the memory of his deceased daughter, Settman keeps the children’s birth secret and raises all seven children alone in his city apartment.

He names each child for the day of the week. When it comes time for them to venture into the world, Settman gives each a singular identity: Karen Settman, named after their mother. Each child leaves the house on the day of the week that is their name: Sunday on Sunday, Monday on Monday and so on.

Settman takes enormous precautions to ensure the safety of his granddaughters, even going so far as to cut off each of their pointer fingers when Thursday falls and must have her fingertip amputated. At the end of each day, Settman also sets the sisters down to a family meeting where one relives the day so that all the sisters can pick up where the other left off. His brutal uniformity works, and the children survive into adulthood without detection.

Until Monday. When Monday doesn’t return home in time for the family meeting, the sisters begin to worry about the whereabouts of their most responsible sibling. The next day, Tuesday reenters the world as Karen Settman as if nothing is wrong. However, what they don’t know is the Child Allocation Bureau knows their family’s hidden secret and is hunting the sisters down to maintain it’s reputation.

As the sisters struggle for their own survival, they also uncover secrets about each other and the government that challenges all their preconceptions.

Netflix has become overambitious when it comes to pushing out original content, leading to series and films that are abundant in quantity, but not quality.

“What Happened to Monday” is no small feat of cinematic prowess; actress Noomi Rapace needed to deftly play seven individual characters, and editors needed to seamlessly insert each character into a scene. This was done wonderfully; there was no time during the length of this film where I was disillusioned by an editing hiccup or the realization that there are not, in fact, seven different actors.

While the acting and the editing were both strong, the rhythm of the film was something to be desired. Since it was two hours in length, it stands to reason that there should be plenty of world building, then establishment of characters and scene, and finally climax and resolution.

The world building wasn’t the problem: viewers are shown the overpopulated world and see clips of Nicolette Cayman arguing for the Child Allocation Act. Throughout the film, the large number of people, the dirty streets and the abundance of posters and checkpoints maintain the idea of an overpopulated future.

However, the characters are very underdeveloped. Terrence Settman is a master manipulator of technology, yet there’s no explanation as to why. By the time the sisters reach adulthood, Settman is also out of the picture with no obvious explanation as to what happened to him.

Nicolette Cayman, as the main villain of the story, also is not given much introduction outside of a brief speech at the beginning of the movie. Then, she shows up in the last hour to 30 minutes, keeping her a very shallow, obviously hateful woman and not much else.

Finally, the seven sisters are the main characters of the story, yet they aren’t given enough substance to make them really likable or relatable. Outside of their physical characteristics and brief moments when the viewers discover that Tuesday likes to smoke pot, Saturday is a temptress and Thursday is a geek, there isn’t much deeper understanding of how the sisters feel about being cooped up in an apartment for six out of seven days. The one instance where there is an inkling of familial disturbance is a flashback to when Thursday is injured, which affects the rest of the sisters in an extremely painful way. Other than that, they just seem to be seven people living together, each with their own quirks, but with no real difficulties, no under-the-surface ills, no feelings whatsoever.

At its very core, “What Happened to Monday” is a film packed with action, tech and government intrigue. There is an overlying, interesting plot, but the writers didn’t take the opportunity to dig into the characters or the world beyond scratching the surface.

While it’s not going to make you think very hard, Netflix has produced yet another cinematically adept film in an interesting universe.

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