The concept of one actor playing several characters on the same screen has been around for a while now; Eddy Murphy in The Nutty Professor, Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future II, and more recently Tatiana Maslany in the BBC-turn-Netflix-original series Orphan Black. The latter example is in fact so similar to What Happened to Monday (directed by Tommy Wirkola) that one would be forgiven for clicking into it on the Netflix home page. Orphan Black follows clones, while Monday follows the story of identical septuplets played by Mooni Rapace in the over-populated world of 2073. As a result, single child policy has been introduced in what is known as the Child Allocation Act. Needless to say, there are six sisters too many and that is dangerous. Siblings get torn from their parents in the middle of a street on a daily basis never to be seen again.
To protect the sisters, their grandfather Terrence (Willem Defoe) creates a single identity with the name of Karen Settman. They each have a day of the week on which they are allowed to go out in the world as Karen, with each of them being named by that day (lazy naming skills, Grandpa?). What happens to one of them happens to all of them, as explained by a severed finger in the opening act of the film. When Monday goes to work as Settman and doesn’t come home, the remaining six sisters do their best to find out what happened to her, hence the title of the film.
Having seven individuals who essentially play one character is an interesting idea, yet it is never fully realised. The sisters have personality traits that match their day; Sunday is religious, Saturday is the wild one of the family and Monday is slightly reserved. The other sisters are interchangeable, which is the fault of the writers, despite Rapace’s best effort to distinguish them. Having seven sisters also makes it easy for the writers to off some of them. The movie quickly turns into a witch hunt for the sisters, but the deaths feel empty for the ones who don’t get the same establishment as those who last to the final few. When you’ve seen one die, you can skip through to the fourth death and the story won’t have moved along very much. To contrast, in Orphan Black the deaths of the clones hit the viewer hard as they have spent hours following the troubles they have had to endure.
Glenn Close plays the antagonist Nicolette Cayman who came up with the idea of the Child Allocation Act. Her role seems a bit low-brow for someone who has been nominated for six Oscars (no wins, though). The twist at the end of the film, if it can even be called that, is generic and extremely predictable and it cheapens a film that could have been so much better.
This would have worked better as a mini series, perhaps each episode representing a day of the week on which the sisters leave the house. We could have received flashbacks for each of them, which would have allowed their personalities to be expanded. Surely there was a time when they felt like going out together? Or when someone recognised somewhat of a difference in their appearances? Those avenues could have been explored in a TV show format. We also could have found out what happened to the sisters’ grandfather, as he is only in scenes where they are children, not as the thirty-year old women played by Rapace.
A wasted opportunity, but a fun flick to put on if you’re looking for something to watch which doesn’t require too much thought.
@connellogblog on Twitter and Pinterest, @connellogg on Instagram!