In Praise of Sabrina Lloyd: The Girl from Monday

The Girl From MondayThe women from Monday: Sabrina Lloyd and Tatiana Abracos share a bed (Photo: Richard Sylvarnes)

The comely Sabrina Lloyd, who gave a terrific performance in Mark Decena’s undervalued Dopamine, as a painter whose paintings canvas her life’s biggest regret, has a wonderful, solemn face. In her new film, The Girl from Monday, she plays Cecile, an ad agency junior exec who wears form-fitting black skirts and pink satin blouses in the boardroom. Her handsome co-worker, Jack, a blond in his 30s, perennially clad in a dark, three-piece suit, makes a pass at her, then pulls away after partially stripping and fully arousing Cecile. From desire to anger, Lloyd’s subtle shifts in facial expression speak volumes. She has the sauciest smile, and the womanliest smolder. Even in tossing off an absurd line such as, “Let’s fuck and increase our buying power,” Lloyd brings more to Hal Hartley’s consumerist satire than the movie merits.

Not that the film lacks other rewarding dimensions. It’s just that it fails to satisfy. Caught between science fiction dream and trenchant attack on a society complicit in manufactured threats, Hartley neither dreams lucidly nor cuts deeply enough. He’s at his sharpest in imagining ad culture taken to Orwellian extremes: “Acts of love, charity, and eroticism for their own sake were soon seen as perverse self-indulgences… barbaric.” The agency where Jack (an elegantly mussed Bill Sage) and Cecile work is largely responsible for selling the public on the totalitarian regime called Triple M, which as we all know spells Mmm, and has a valued account in something known as Brutal Youth Children’s Wear.

Bill SageIntermittently amusing or provocative, The Girl from Monday coasts a long way on Sage’s and Lloyd’s physical graces. Technically, the film is a marvel: the cinematographer Sarah Cawley-Cabiya opens with an impressionistic display of diffuse lights, delicate blue screens streaked with shards of opalescence that look as ephemerally lovely as firecrackers in mid-flight. The editor Steve Hamilton rapidly cuts from screen to screen; our eyes almost don’t have time to register the brilliance of the light patterns, from straight lines on one to arcs on the next.

Cawley-Cabiya and Hartley use slanted compositions almost throughout. They resist photographing anything fully upright. The film’s sloping, bisecting lines that split horizons into verticals are, in my line of view, to die for. And what texture and color Cawley-Cabiya achieves in the lower Manhattan street scenes: she has found more depth in digital video than most. There are also splendid underwater shots of the Brazilian model Tatiana Abracos swimming naked. The way Hamilton edits these, Abracos sometimes appears to be swimming toward herself: they’re enough to raise momentary doubt—is she one woman or two? We’re told that Jack’s wife has drowned, and we watch Jack discover the unnamed Abracos character as she emerges from the sea, but there’s no suggestion that she could be the wife returned, reconfigured. Hartley seems interested only in his camera set-ups, and who can blame him in the face of four almost symmetrically perfect layers of dark clouds, pale sky, bottle-green ocean, and a triangle of shore as they sweep across the frame? – NPT

April 22, 2005