One common requirement that can be found on virtually any job description nowadays is a so-called ‘9 to 5 mentality’. It’s so commonplace that it has achieved a high degree of social embeddedness, and there are very few who question its underlying framework. A framework which leaves only a few free hours for relaxation or self-actualisation, quite often already under the cover of darkness. It leaves workers wishing they could jump from one weekend to another, and never once deal with the dreaded Monday. ‘9to5’, co-written by Filippos Tsapekis and Katerina Tsoumpa, and directed by the former, explores this broad topic, but in much more depth than originally anticipated.
The film starts in the evening, with Papadaki, a lawyer, driving from work to a meeting point. Before heading in, he stops and grooms himself, and applies some make-up to look less exhausted than he actually is. Does he have a date planned out, and wishes to look as fresh as possible, but without having time for a shower or a quick shut-eye? Apparently not – he is escorted into an exercise centre, and given exercise pants and a pair of sneakers. As he begins to run on the treadmill, it becomes readily apparent that he is in fact extremely tired after a full day of work – something that his supervisor confronts him about and doesn’t take kindly to. As excuses pile up and start conflicting with each other, Papadaki’s initial confidence disperses and gives way to fear.
‘9to5’ evokes the familiarity of a dystopian Yorgos Lanthimos setting, and we’re not saying this merely because both of them are Greek. The film under review masterfully plays around with a very structured and black-or-white futuristic setting. While, most notably, ‘The Lobster’ divided society into couples with no acceptance of single people, and single people with no acceptance of personal relationships, ‘9to5’ does the division in terms of overworking and fitness. As punishment for breaking the established norms, individuals do not get to be transformed into an animal of their choice, but also suffer drastic consequences.
Apart from feeling extremely relevant in the context of a social phenomenon which sees more and more overworked and stressed people, as well as a plunge when it comes to the general health level of individuals, ‘9to5’ equally comes off as technically proficient and is a pleasure to look at. From the poorly lit and sparsely decorated exercise room to some of the later shocking imagery that brings an end to the film, the project builds its own distinctive look and feel, and sticks to it at all times.
The film by Filippos Tsapekis is a wonderful achievement that, following a process of incubation of its main takeaways, might not feel as far-fetched as it may originally seem. It resonates with universal themes and paints a grim picture of a very interesting and provocative set of circumstances. Attention to detail combines with a spectacular finesse in both content and delivery, and everything results in a memorable final product.