We don’t expect the lovers in romantic dramas to be perfect; all we ask is that they be interestingly flawed. “Monday,” a Greece-set film starring Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough, only makes on good on half the equation — it’s a great-looking vacation to nowhere.
She is an American immigration lawyer ready to head home after a long Athens love affair has fizzled out; he is a musician and nightclub DJ who left New Orleans years ago and still hasn’t grown up. Mickey (Stan) and Chloe (Gough) are thrown together in the dance-floor throng, after which they not very believably rush off to have passionate naked midnight beach sex. (What about the sand, you ask? Never mind.) They’re properly introduced the following morning as the local cops are hauling them off to jail.
It starts as a casual fling, and the early scenes have a sunny, ribald charm to them, director/co-writer Argyris Papadimitropoulos making the most of his locations and the characters’ blissful hedonism. Mickey and Chloe make love everywhere: underwater, atop a sofa on a moving van, anywhere there’s a horizontal surface. Then they try to make a serious go of it, and so does the movie.
We’ve been here before and many, many times, and “Monday,” newly available on demand, doesn’t give us enough reason to be here again. Mickey is a man-child with a son he rarely sees and a self-loathing streak under his raffish demeanor; Stan gives him charisma but not enough depth or detail. Gough, an Irish actress who has worked primarily on the stage, is more idiosyncratic as Chloe, painting her as a woman torn between impulsive behavior and grounded reality; the tension may have worked in the character’s twenties but it’s grinding her down in her thirties.
The earnest and unsurprising screenplay surrounds these two with friends and ex-lovers, a movable feast of attractive, shallow expatriates and young Athenians. There are ups and downs over the course of a year — mostly downs — as Chloe’s patience with Mickey wears thin along with ours. Try though the actors may, they’re unable to make us care about characters who are primarily defined by their lousy decisions and who lack the spark to draw us closer to their flame. Or maybe it’s Papadimitropoulos’s prosaic direction that lacks the style to bring “Monday” to life?
Stan is a good actor (“I, Tonya”) whose career has been taken over by the Marvel machine: He’s Bucky Barnes in the “Captain America”/“Avengers” cycle and is currently paired with Anthony Mackie in the Disney+ series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” I don’t blame him if he took on “Monday” for a change of pace and a Greek vacation, but there’s little he can do to keep this tale of l’amour fou from turning into l’amour feh.
Directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos. Written by Papadimitropoulos and Rob Hayes. Starring Sebastian Stan, Denise Gough. Available on demand. 116 minutes. R (sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use, pervasive language)