Saturday, August 05, 2023

Japan Cuts ’23: Mondays

If you were stuck in a time loop while at work, but you never noticed, your job probably kind of sucks. That is pretty much where Shukai Yoshikawa and her office mates are. To break the loop, they will have to work together, but that is always harder than it sounds in office-place comedies, very definitely including Ryo Takebayashi’s Mondays [See You ‘This’ Week], which screens tomorrow as part of this year’s Japan Cuts Festival of New Japanese Film.

Yoshikawa was hoping to jump ship to the bigger, more prestigious advertising company that often subcontracts Nagashige’s rag-tag firm, but that will never happen while she is stuck in a loop. Two of her junior coordinators managed to awaken her consciousness to the time loop and they have developed some theories as to what their next course of action should be—because they have had time think on the problem and watch a few movies.

They need her to awaken her direct superior, so he can awaken his, and so on, working their way up to Nagashige. If they go straight to the boss, he will not take them seriously. This might be an outlandish situation, but this chain-of-command mentality definitely strikes a chord, doesn’t it? They also have a theory as to how the manga-loving Nagashige can break the curse that has befallen all of them, but he will take some serious convincing.

Apparently, the Japan film industry has a massive competitive advantage when it comes to producing original time loop movies. Just like Junta Yamaguchi’s
The Infinite Two Minutes, Mondays takes a somewhat familiar premise and turns it inside out. In this case, Takebayashi and co-screenwriter Saeri Natsuo also add sly workplace humor just as funny or funnier than any episode of The Office (either of them).

It all sort of makes sense and pays off handsomely, thanks to a terrific cast. Makita Sports is absolutely terrific as Nagashige, the pseudo Carell/Gervais figure, who turns out to be a heck of a guy. Wan Marui is incredibly deadpan as Yoshikawa, while Kouki Nagamura and Yuki Mikawa deliver the best wisecracks as her direct-reports, Endo and Murata. Kotaro Yagi and Haruki Takano also nicely mine the eccentricities of her managers for laughs.

This film is so on-target, it easily translates across cultures and language barriers, because corporate culture obviously isn’t that much different from country to country. This is probably the next Japanese film that could generate a cult following comparable to
One Cut of the Dead. Highly recommended for sf-time lopping fans and office drones, Mondays [etc.] screens tomorrow (8/6) as part of Japan Cuts ’23.