By 2073, overpopulation and environmental collapse have put humanity on the brink of extinction. Desperate to survive, humanity adopts the ideas of Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close), a scientist, politician and head of the Child Allocation Bureau. Her teachings are, seemingly, fair but cruel; one child. No more. Any siblings must be placed in cryogenic sleep until the world is able to support them.
Society, inevitably, turns dystopian and doctor Terrence Settman (Willem Defoe), whose daughter Karen died giving birth to septuplets, takes desperate measures to keep his granddaughters (all played by Noomi Rapace) alive. He names them for the days of the week and only allows them outside on the day that matches their name. An injury to one of them has to be replicated on all the others and they must never leave the house on their ‘off’ days. Even when they do, they must all take on the same identity, that of their dead mother, Karen Settman.
Years pass and the sisters live in uneasy close quarters. Then, one day, Monday doesn’t come home…
Max Botkin and Kerry Williamson’s script was on the 2010 Black List of best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood and it’s easy to see why. The central idea is great and turns in on itself in some very surprising ways. It’s a neatly constructed engine of a piece and it’s helped immensely by the talent on screen.
Noomi Rapace relishes the chance to follow Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany into acting against herself here. Wednesday, the blunt, direct fighter of the group is especially impressive as is the retiring, shy Friday. The script is at its best when it puts characters like this in Monday’s shoes, emphasising that although the sisters share an identity, they’re painfully different people, and using that discomfort and uncertainty to ramp up the tension.
But where it really impresses is in its willingness to break expectations. Plot and character alike go to places you, and the characters, do not expect to go, and the sisters pay a heavy price for it. That gives the action sequences an added sense of urgency and panic and papers over the unfortunately pretty thin characterisation (the sisters are rarely given time to be more than ‘shy’, ‘fighter’, ‘cold’ and so on).
The rest of the cast fare a little better. Glenn Close does her best Margaret Thatcher as Cayman and Marwan Kenzari is excellent as a CAB agent who is far more closely connected to the sisters than they initially think. They’re helped further by a fantastic third act which takes the sort of fatalistic, unflinching turn that Netflix SF movies seem both increasingly fond of and increasingly good at. Tonally, for all the punching and exploding that goes on, the movie ends up remarkably close to stablemate Okja in its view of humanity and the future.
What Happened To Monday? is often patchy and never quite gives Rapace the text she deserves to work with. But it’s also inventive, consistently surprising (there’s a bit involving user-specific guns you’re going to see copied everywhere in a few years) and entertaining. A worthy addition to the Netflix stable and definitely worth seeing.
Release: Streaming now
Age Rating: 15