THinc. is a site for crazy complicated, hard to understand movies. I thrive on movies that don’t button up all nice and neat – which is anathema to Hollywood. But occasionally, you find an intrepid movie developer and they just let fly. Movies like Primer, Inception, The One I Love, If There’s a Hell Below, The Signal, Time Lapse, Predestination, The Arrival, I could just keep going and going. I literally get email from people who have just discovered my site asking for a fullon list weekly. But I get it. It’s so normal to allow Hollywood to talk down to the viewer that it’s really rare to see a director with the intestinal fortitude necessary to make a complicated movie these days.
Well if you are jonesing for a new complicated movie fix – dude, I’ve totally got a great recommendation for you. It’s rare treat that we get really complicated, and really interesting movie to debate and discuss… so we really have to savor them when they come. And while What Happened to Monday isn’t perfect (Nope. It has many many flaws.), it is a highly worthwhile mind-trip of a movie. I really had a blast the deeper down this rabbit hole I fell.
What Happened to Monday World Building
For those of you that haven’t seen it? Let me give you a quick primer… Ok, so basically the world population causes global problems, which leads to genetically modified food explosion to meet population demands. That in turn leads to an explosion in twins and multiple births. Which then leads to an exacerbation of the initial problem. Dr. Caymen (Glenn Close) as the head of the Child Allocation Bureau initiates the “One Child – One Earth”, Child Allocation Actintended to decrease global overpopulation. All siblings are then forced into bureau remanded cryo-sleep.
In this world, a woman, Karen Setman, gets pregnant, father unknown, and bears seven children. Karen dies in child birth and the children’s grandfather (Willem Dafoe), Terrence Settman vows to raise the seven sisters hidden from the oppressive regime. And to do so he names each one a day of the week and determines they can only go out on their name-sake day of the week.
So, for most of you that haven’t seen this yet, you really need to leave now. You see, I don’t do movie reviews. My movie review for What Happened to Monday is this – GO SEE IT. Ok? There, you have your movie review. But this is where the fun begins for me. I would MUCH RATHER talk to those of you who have already seen it than give you some general, opaque critique of the movie. So yeah, this is where a TON of here be dragons warnings have to be dropped in. Because spoilers abound.
— HERE BE DRAGONS — Spoilers Alert —
Who are the Days of the Week?
Currently scrubbing back through the movie to try and ascertain the personality types of each of the days of the week. It’s a tricky thing to pull off, but I think I’m getting close now.
Monday – long haired leader, that went missing
Tuesday – red headed compassionate drug user
Wednesday – health nut and anti-NGO fanatic?
Thursday – short haired skateboarder that thrashed her finger and longs for freedom
Friday – skull cap wearing, smart number cruncher
Saturday – blonde hair partier and cut up
Sunday – the believer and the idealist
Karen Settman is their collective identity that they all take on together, disavowing their particular unique attributes.
Story of What Happened to Monday
The story is simple enough, Monday vanishes, and the other six women need to figure out what happened to her before the authorities do. Otherwise their cover, Karen Settman, will be blown and they won’t be able to ever go out again. One of the interesting things about the story is that the story is told over the course of a week which allows each of the sisters a chance to go out and increment their search and learn more as the week progresses. And if you were a little confused with who did what, or when each sister died… or who it was that was dying I’ve detailed out the events below:
Monday: Monday meets Jerry in the elevator and he tells her that he is onto her. Monday heads up and apparently gives her presentation, but doesn’t return home Monday night.
Sisters left: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
Tuesday: Monday left early to celebrate apparently. So did she get the promotion that they were all hoping for? She apparently went to her favorite bar, Harry’s. And when she gets there she learns that Harry and Monday argued. And all the sisters determine that Jerry is on to them. And when Tuesday goes to confront Harry, she is nabbed by the CAB and introduced to Caymen. Guards from CAB come to the apartment, using Tuesday’s eyeball to get in. Enormously fantastic fight with the guards, with each woman’s personality showing through in their fighting style. But in the end Sunday dies.
Sisters left: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
Wednesday: When Wednesday arrives at Jerry’s apartment she is met with, “Hello Karen, you are cutting it close aren’t you.” Which is all kinds of confusing right about now. Basically Jerry wants Karen to pass on the promotion or else he is going to let others know about “her little secret”. But it wasn’t the sisters, it was the 407c transfer contract. Apparently Monday set up a contract with Dr. Cayman.
After some fingerprint cleverness Wednesday gets out of Jerry’s apartment after linking the contract over to her sisters. Then, flip back at the apartment where the CAB guard at the checkpoint knocks on the door. Apparently Monday and he had hooked up before. But this doesn’t dawn on them. So Thursday tells Saturday to go with him to his place and find out which one of them he has been seeing. And back to Wednesday, she gets help from Friday and then makes a leap across from one roof to the other, only to be shot by Joe, the CAB agent assisting Cayman. “Why would Karen Settmen illegally transfer millions of dollars into Dr. Cayman’s campaign fund?” Meanwhile, Saturday successfully links her band with the agent’s.
Sisters left: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
Thursday: Using the linked band from Saturday, Friday and Thursday access the video feed of the processing center and find Monday in cell C34. When we cut back to Saturday, she learns that Monday had been in a relationship with Adrian Knowles (the CAB agent) for a while. But the biggest news is that Cayman is making a run for parliament.
Saturday is killed in Knowles’ apartment while talking with Friday and Thursday on the video feed in spectacular fashion. Then the CAB agents attack the apartment with tear gas, but Friday tricks Thursday and stays behind in order to transfer the family photos. (Um?) “I synched everything, go and get Monday. Show Cayman who Karen Settmen really is.” And then she blew it all up.
Thursday went and found Adrian thinking that he had sold them all out. It was immediately after he saw Friday dead and told him Karen wasn’t dead. So Adrian takes Thursday to the Child Allocation Bureau in a body bag, acting as if she was one of the sisters who had previously died. There, Thursday witnesses a girl getting put to “cryo-sleep” but she is actually incinerated. But when they get to Monday’s cell, they find Tuesday instead, sans an eyeball.
Cut to – Cayman hosting Karen (Monday) in her apartments in order to finalize the money transfer. Cayman tells Monday that she has one of her siblings still alive as collateral. It appears that Monday is negotiating to be the only Karen, and has paid Caymen from her bank in order to get that right. Which also means her siblings have died for a reason.
Soon Monday and Thursday meet at the Cayman fundraiser in the bathroom. (I ask you this in all seriousness, when, has a woman’s rest room EVER been empty during a gala or event. Sorry, but it just doesn’t happen. Ok, ok… back to it.) Monday pulls out the gun that had gone missing from the safe earlier in the movie. Quick Recap: “Sunday died in my arms, Wednesday fell to her death, Saturday shot in the head, and Friday…”
Sister battle of the century ensues and all I could think about was, when are they using doubles, wire removal and when were they using WETA. But Thursday survives and heads out to the gala, where Tuesday plays the video of the child getting cryo-sleeped. But then out comes Monday in her best Hans Gruber Die Hard glory! But is shot by Joe. And then Joe is shot by Adrian. I need a freaking score card at this point. But the big twist? It appears that Monday was pregnant. “Promise me, you won’t them take them.” And she was most likely pregnant with twins.
Sisters left: Tuesday (Terry), and Thursday (Karen)
The Open Questions with What Happened to Monday
My first big problem with this movie is that if their father can create bands for all of the girls, why couldn’t he have created bands that declared them all single child children? Is it that he is just duplicating the data and he can’t forge the data? Regardless, it takes a pretty significant logical leap and suspension of reality in order to swallow that particular assumption.
Problem two? If you wandered around town digging into what you – you yourself – did the day before they’d lock you away. And yet, over and over again the sisters continually ask about themselves with unbelievable impunity. Excuse me sir, I was here yesterday, did you see me here? Ok, cool. Um. What was I doing? Remind me. Oh THAT’S RIGHT! I totally forgot. Eh? hahahah.
Also, why did they take the dead sisters to the “cryo-chambers”? When they are dead, why not just dispose of the body? I guess I just answered my own question. Right? The incenerators were basically just quick and easy disposal units I guess? Anybody have a better thought on that?
I will say this, that one of the more clever details around this setup is that it mirrors the movie The Prestige in a number of ways. The biggest of which is that they all lead one collective life. And anything that happens to one happens to them all. And like the Prestige, Thursday hurts her hand skateboarding and it forces their grandfather to hurt the other six girl’s hands as well. And that this is the setup for what REALLY happened to Monday.
What Happened To Monday Movie Explanation
So what is with that title? It could just be the most clever aspect of the movie. Because, when you first read the title you realize, ah, they are all named days of the week. Clever. And MONDAY IS MISSING! What happened to her? Where is she?
But nope. That isn’t what the title means.
What happened to Monday is actually the literal question – what the heck happened to her that made her do what she did? As the movie unfolds and morphs it goes from a hunt for Monday to a realization that all the sisters need to survive her as she attempts to take over Karen’s life. But what made her do that?
Well, the real answer to this question isn’t a what, but a who. The answer to this question is, “Terrence Settman”. The girls’ grandfather is the one that oppressively taught them to hid and to live as a single life. Terrence Settman is the one that hacked off one of each of their fingers when Thursday screwed up skateboarding.
Final Thoughts on What Happened to Monday
This story is infinitely relevant to our current political chaos. If you are from the future, and you are, because you are reading this after I wrote it, I might need to remind you of the hell we are currently living through. Trump is in office. KKK and White Supremacists are marching. All of this harkens back to the Third Reich and the Nazi regimes desire to eradicate the undesirables of the country. Jews. Gypsies. They were all targeted in the “Final Solution”. The Child Allocation Bureau is just a post-post-modern spin on this old Eugenics program from the 40s.
It is when we find out that the children were actually put in incinerators, not cryo-chambers, this fact drives the metaphor all the way home. Similar programs to the CAB are literally happening in many parts of the world today. China, and many parts of Asia. Babies are left out in the rain to die in many parts of the world where this happens. Heck, even when it isn’t mandated by the state, poverty is a natural restrictor for many families. I could tell a million stories I have heard first hand. But I’ll pass this time.
As the movie wraps we see Tuesday and Thursday conferring, and looking in on the twins that had been saved from Monday. And it was these twins that started her on this journey, searching for normalcy in a highly abnormal world. And somehow this is enough for Tuesday and Thursday to forgive Monday for her actions. Which, in my opinion is the hardest thing for me to swallow. Five of the sisters are now dead and just like that they are ok with Monday’s actions?
I will say this, that the six sisters were successful in bringing down this oppressive regime founded by the Child Allocation Bureau. They stopped Dr. Caymen and her plan to force potential parents from having to get a license to have a child. Which, is just a hop, skip and a jump away from a full blown eugenics program. So there is that.
Bottom line, this is an extraordinarily relevant piece of film that Netflix has pulled together. It hits all the touchy hot topics of the day. And it does it in a very intriguing and very interesting way. I adore this little film. Was it perfect? NO! Oh my gosh. But it was good enough to make you think. Good enough to really push back against some of the important topics happening in the public forum right now. What were your thoughts on the film?