Once upon a time, my husband’s favorite movie was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a video game-themed comedy based on a comic (graphic novel, technically). That makes sense if you know him and I like that movie, too. Then he watched What Happened to Monday, and this dystopian sci-fi thriller became his new favorite. The only thing the two movies have in common is a focus on the number 7. After finally sitting down and watching it, did I also like this film? Well… not really. Sorry, babe.
The story takes place a few decades in the future where environmental disasters have led to people having multiple births. There are more dominos in that chain, but they’re not important. Seven sisters, all played by Ms. Noomi Rapace and named after the weekdays (what, did Willem Dafoe’s character not remember the Pleiades when it came time to naming them?) who have to hide their existences under a harsh one-child law instituted by Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close). Each sister goes out and pretends to be a shared identity on the weekday they share a name with, so Tuesday goes out as “Karen Settman” on Tuesdays, and so forth. But one Monday, Monday doesn’t come back home leading the sisters to start a search that ends up exposing themselves to the tyrannical government. Not everyone makes it out, but with help from a sympathetic agent, Adrian (Marwan Kenzari, AKA Joe from The Old Guard), the truth of what happened to Monday is exposed.
There are two twists that become painfully obvious very early. The first is that any children beyond the firstborn that get put into “cryosleep” are actually killed. Thousands–if not millions–of children are put into stasis to be reawakened when the population crisis is over? I don’t know how they managed to trick anyone into believing that. The other is once we learn that Monday kept secrets from her sisters, it’s clear that she betrayed her siblings to the government. She felt that their shared identity was truly hers and had grown frustrated with having to deal with 6 copies of herself. Didn’t hurt that she met Adrian and got pregnant. She gets in over her head and things spiral drastically out of control, but she’s still a villain by the end of the film. 4 of her sisters die because of her actions before she’s killed as well.
There’s this vibe at the end of the movie that rubbed me the wrong way. Cayman murdered a mind boggling number of children but she ends the movie with a proud speech that’s essentially, “You’ll never know the world we could’ve created if you let me continue (to murder children).” Then the last scene is Adrian, Terry (Tuesday), and Karen (Thursday) looking at Monday’s twins–I guess they harvested the fetuses from her dying body–in a room lined ceiling to floor with screaming newborns. Is… is the movie trying to actually trying to say that while Cayman’s extreme methods are obviously barbaric, overpopulation is still a dangerous problem? Cause it’s not the doomsday scenario movies make it out to be. We have enough food to feed everyone on the planet, but those resources are horded by a few dozen billionaires who would rather race to be the first rich asshole in space than try to improve the lives of others. It’s not the poor and vulnerable who are destroying the environment, but a hundred corporations who add insult to injury by pushing the idea that WE need to recycle and cut back in order to save the planet, while THEY pollute relentlessly and take the lion’s share of resources with fewer and fewer restrictions each year. The myth of overpopulation even has classist and racist overtones: Think which groups of people would be subject to draconian population controls. Or the people that HAVE had things like forced sterilization already done to them. Hell, what people are targeted when immigration becomes a “problem?” Hint: it’s not rich white people. The best way to combat “overpopulation” is to improve the lives of people around the world, especially the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable, while ditching our dependence on oil and coal.
Poverty leads to overpopulation and capitalism leads to environmental disasters. Down with the bourgeoisie and all that.
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