Seven is always better than one, right? Who doesn’t want more of a good thing? The new Netflix original “What Happened to Monday?” puts that theory to the test, featuring the acting prowess of Noomi Rapace (Alien: Covenant, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) in seven distinct roles. Set in 2043, the film focuses on a set of septuplets (all played by Rapace) born into a post-apocalyptic world plagued by over-population and famine. In response, politicians have implemented a One-Child Policy. Any woman who gives birth to multiples must decide which to save. The rest are taken away by the Child Allocation Bureau and their fates are somewhat murky. It seems the children are put into a state of suspended animation; with the idea they’ll be brought back to “life” once conditions on Earth have improved.
The seven siblings we meet in the film were saved by their savvy grandfather, played by Willem Dafoe. He hides the girls away in his apartment with secret rooms and spaces to accommodate the brood. When the Child Allocation Bureau comes to visit, the girls know to hide. That is, all but one of the girls, who is able to live openly. To give all seven girls the chance to have a life outside of the apartment, Dafoe assigns each a day of the week during which they live as Karen Settman, the siblings’ eponymous alias. At the end of the day they all gather together for a dinner debriefing, so each is able to easily pick up where the other left off the day before without missing a beat. Because of this system, each septuplet is named after a day of the week…Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and so on.
The conflict of the film occurs when the septuplets are discovered and they need to run and fight to stay alive. They work together as a unit to protect one another, using techniques and skills developed over the course of their lives. There’s an undercurrent of post-apocalyptic paranoia throughout the film, solid action sequences, and a quick pace to the storytelling. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing as to what exactly is happening and who is to blame for the sisters’ plight.
Rapace gives a strong performance as all seven siblings in a scenario that is reminiscent of the premise of the television series Orphan Black. The film relies on some tried and true clichés used throughout film history when identical twins or siblings are the focus of the plot. Each sister has a different hairstyle or hair color, and a personality that sets her apart from the rest (the rebel, the sexpot, the practical hardworking sister, etc). Rapace does a great job differentiating these individual characters, but there’s still something a little strained in the concept of the film. You may find yourself wondering “how’d they do that?” during scenes featuring all seven of the identical characters. Rapace’s performances are integrated with one another seamlessly, which is a true technical feat. But thinking about the camera and CGI trickery does tend to take you out of the story a bit, and it’s hard not to focus on that part of the behind-the-scenes filmmaking, considering the premise.
Glenn Close turns in a workmanlike performance as the unsympathetic and, at times, downright monstrous Director of the Child Allocation Bureau. But it’s Rapace that carries the film. She is up for the task, but the premise of the film is a bit thin. Young Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola helms the picture. He’s best known for working on horror films, and some of that influence can be seen in his direction. He doesn’t shy away from some rather brutal and violent scenes, making this film something that parents of children might want to note before cueing this up on a family movie night.
“What Happened to Monday?” is a worthwhile Netflix original, but it also makes it clear that sometimes too much of a good thing is just…too much.