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Review: Two Days, One Night

January 18, 2015

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Two Days, One Night Poster

Marion Cotillard received a surprise Oscar nomination for her role in Two Days, One Night, and she deserves the Best Actress recognition, delivering an absolutely incredible performance in this excellent latest from master filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is a young working class mother in Belgium, who is struggling to support her two kids, while suffering from severe depression, and relying on increasing amounts of Xanax to even get through the day.

But no sooner that she is ready to go back to work after a much needed sick leave, Sandra is unfairly fired from her factory job, because the majority of her coworkers have voted in favour of getting a hefty bonus for themselves, instead of allowing her to stay on the payroll.

Distraught and seemingly out of options, but nonetheless encouraged by her kind husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), Sandra spends the weekend tracking down her fellow employees, trying to convince them to rescind their votes.  This means asking them to give up their increased pay so that she can keep her much needed job, an act of common decency that not all of them are willing to commit.

This is a film about small moral dilemmas that people face every day, and how financial problems can balloon out of control.  Through her interactions with these colleagues, Two Days, One Night becomes a fascinating social study of human behaviour, and how people respond when faced with a question of morals that would benefit someone else, instead of just themselves.  Some of them do have legitimate reasons for needing a raise, but others are just being selfish, and whether they respond with kindness, bitterness or pitiful indifference tells us so much about these supporting characters, even if they are only glimpsed in a few scenes.

We watch Sandra break down in tears, before swallowing her pride and pushing forward on her journey, driven by both dignity and fierce desperation.  She makes a similar plea to each of the people she encounters, and their responses to her request are varied and often surprising to watch.  Marion Cotillard is simply masterful here, and this is one of the most accurate portrayals of depression that I’ve seen, with the actress never striking a wrong note in bringing this very relatable person to the screen.  Throughout it all, her character earns both our sympathy and utmost respect.

Directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne continue to prove themselves as incredibly adept at crafting quietly affective studies of the working class.  And it’s a true testament to their strength as both filmmakers and storytellers that Two Days, One Night is able to take such a deceptively simple premise and turn it into an emotional and utterly compelling human drama.  At a lean 95 minutes, every scene here is important, filled with subtext and offering plenty of fodder for both thought and conversation.

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