Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Foreign
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salee
Written & Directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne (The Kid with a Bike, The Silence of Lorna, L'enfant)
Two Days, One Night (opening today) is the latest effort from the filmmaking duo, the Dardenne brothers, a Belgian directing tandem responsible for one of the best films of 2012, The Kid with a Bike. With their latest effort, they once again show their brilliance in creating small, human stories rich with raw emotion. It stars Marion Cotillard, whose stripped-down performance just earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Cotillard plays Sandra, a woman battling depression who is laid off from her blue collar industrial job at a solar panel factory in her hometown of Liege, Belgium. Her foreman tells her the news, and that the decision was reached by giving her 16 co-workers an ultimatum of sorts: They could receive their 1000 euro bonus and cut Sandra loose, or they could choose to forego their bonus and keep Sandra employed. Since the foreman already broke the news to Sandra, we know what the majority decided on.
Now these are not rich or greedy souls. Far from it. Many of Sandra's co-workers need and depend upon their bonuses in order to make a living. Sandra too, needs this job desperately, so she convinces her foreman to allow a re-vote on Monday, and she spends her weekend personally visiting each of her co-workers in order to make her case and hopefully sway their votes.
I don't have a working understanding of Belgian business practices, but the whole "job ultimatum" proposal might seem quite odd to most Americans. It does strike me as a flimsy, somewhat hard-to-believe premise but it is vital to buy into for the film to be effective. Cotillard though, makes the movie more about her and less about the circumstances her character finds herself in.
As they did with The Kid with a Bike, the Dardenne's examine the intricacies and complexities of human nature and how we interact with one another. Each person Sandra encounters is living their own life, with their own set of problems, yet some are still able to recognize the importance of compassion. Those that may not be willing to change their votes, still have reasons and are allowed to have sympathy for Sandra's situation. There are no black and white answers here.
For as much as Cotillard's performance drew me in, the film itself did grow a bit tedious and predictable. It may have deepened, but much of what the film is trying to say is said in the first 30 minutes or so.
Still, Two Days, One Night should be on your list of films to see before Oscar night. This little film fits nicely in the Dardenne's canon and also should strike a cord with most movie-goers living in today's tough economic climate.
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