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Guest Viewpoints

Can Love Survive “Monday”? An Unconventional Film Romance

May 20, 2021
By Penelope Karageorge

Argyris Papadimitropoulos’s new film Monday is a must for film lovers, just plain lovers, and would-be romancers. His first English-language movie focuses on two Americans, Mickey and Chloe, who combust at a party one hot summer night in Athens, wake up the next morning naked on the beach, are arrested, and move on to a year of love, hate, and everything in between. It’s a series of Fridays, but Monday must come. This dynamic, unconventional film offers a close-up, personal view of a couple who begin a relationship on an extravagant high and who struggle to stay up there – an almost impossible dream.

Viewing it, I found myself mesmerized, even by the characters most bizarre actions, including a naked bike ride through Athens in the middle of the night – which, by the way, is beautifully filmed. Call it bitter-sweet eye candy. Denise Gough’s performance, her lightning switches from sexual adventuress to tight-lipped kvetch, occasionally misses the mark. Still, she’s right for the part, as is Sebastian Stan. Their attraction’s palpable, and you leave the film debating what will happen to this couple, somehow wanting them to succeed.   

“My friends claim that my films have a joyous anarchy,” the director  told The National Herald in an exclusive phone interview from Athens. “They break the rules.” He drew on his own life experience as inspiration for Monday. “At a party I gave for my 35th birthday, there were two people that met and went to the beach and were arrested. I said ‘I’m going to make a film just like that’ someday. I wanted to make a film inspired by a traditional love story that takes the cliches and turns them upside down, that does not sugar-coat, that shows us the reality.”

Working with Rob Hayes, he wrote the script in two months, and then cast Sebastian Stan (Marvel’s Winter Soldier) and Irish actress Denise Gough as the sun-and-sand crossed lovers Mickey and Chloe. “I was looking for and found two amazing actors who also had great chemistry. I wanted the characters to be Americans, people who don’t have a family or point of reference, but need to get close to each other.” The actors did improv for the dialogue. “The script is not a Bible. In order to get authentic and honest feeling I need to get the actors to say the words as they would say them.”

When making a film, Papadimitropoulos pulls out all the stops. “If you’re going halfway, you’re compromising your beliefs in yourself. You have to be ready to expose yourself one hundred percent.” To film this movie “we got very comfortable together, the actors and the crew. It was super-discreet. They felt super-safe. The whole thing was happening organically. We did not force anything to happen.”

The film premiered at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival, where it was picked up by IFC for distribution in theaters. It can be viewed currently on Amazon Prime and other streaming services. “It was difficult to have the film delayed by the pandemic,” the director says, “but now it’s good news because the film reminds us of how wonderful it feels not to be distant. Relationships were really challenged by the lock-up but we are ready for rediscovery. Monday also offers an escape to a Greek holiday destination. It was filmed in Athens, Poros, and Antiparos.”

The Los Angeles Times said: “Papadimitropoulos doesn’t offer easy answers, but what Monday brings is something tangibly real and profoundly human.” The Wall Street Journal observed: “Mr. Papadimitropoulos maintains a delicate balance between the wryly hilarious and the heartbreaking, and sometimes the high wire trembles. But danger is intoxicating, and Chloe and Mickey, along with much of their audience, spend much of Monday delightfully drunk.”

Papadimitropoulos, 45, grew up in the Kipseli neighborhood of Athens, “part of a regular Greek family, with a brother, a sister and Sunday dinners.” His mother frequently took him to movies and “in Greece we have the beautiful open air cinema culture, so in the summer it’s an almost every-night thing for kids to go to the movies.” He did not decide  early on to seek a movie career.  A high-school drop-out, “I was living the 90’s lifestyle. Then I got interested in the work of Martin Scorsese. I started reading all about him, all his interviews and everything, and one day called my family and said, ‘I’m going to be a film-maker.’ They were thrilled, so happy to hear that I was going to focus, to become something, whatever that was.”

He went to England, and studied film briefly in Oxford, but returned to work in advertising and made more than 200 commercials. “I loved making commercials. Each one was like a little story. It was wonderful practice for making films.” He made several shorts, then moved on to Wasted Youth, Suntan, and now Monday, which he considers “a love letter to Athens. It’s strangely nostalgic, even though it was only filmed two years ago.”

He appreciates life as a Greek filmmaker. “We have our small film-making community in Athens. We collaborate and help each other out. It’s pretty amazing the support I received from other actors and film makers when I was making Monday, how they came on board.”

He enjoys giving parties, and actually gave parties for scenes in Monday – rather than hire extras, he invited his friends to appear in the film.

Monday follows his well-received, poignant Suntan, also set in the world of sun and sand. He admits that he has “a soft spot for Greek summer. The hedonism, the sea breeze, going on a boat and feeling that you’re in the middle of nowhere.”

Married and the father of a nine-year-old daughter, Papadimitropoulos claims he has no hobbies. “When you’re making a film, you don’t need hobbies. It’s like going to a wonderful playland.”

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