Two Days, One Night (2014, Belgum, d. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne (The Kid with a Bike, Lorna's Silence, Rosetta) are back with more of their realism with "Two Days, One Night", one that's not only heartbreaking with social commentary, but emotionally shattering as well. Oscar winner Marion Cotillard stars in a very wrenching performance that just earned her another Oscar nomination in this year's Best Actress race. 2014 has been quite the year for Cotillard, her devastating performance in James Gray's "The Immigrant" (Now available to stream on Netflix) is the best performance of the year, and her performance in "Two Days, One Night" is perhaps the second best performance I've seen this year. Cotillard is truly one of the greatest actresses working today, I also highly recommend the extravagant "La Vie En Rose" (2007), where she won the Best Actress Oscar for her towering, larger than life performance as French iconic songwriter Edith Piaf.
Cotillard plays a Belgian factory worker that builds solar and wind panels. She ends up enduring severe anxieties and deep depression after recovering from a severe panic attack, during which she had to take some time off for work. Cutbacks are taking place, her fellow employees are given a choice to vote between receiving an additional annual bonus, or Sandra's job.
On a Friday evening Sandra finds out that the union voted on the bonus, but since the voting was done abruptly and unfairly, the foreman agrees to hold a new vote on Monday morning. Her husband pressures her to visit her co-workers in person, which is very challenging with the emotional turmoil she is suffering from. Sandra has the opportunity all weekend to persuade each of her fellow co--workers and inform them to change their votes to save her job, her family, and ultimately livelihood.
Sandra attempts to visit her co-workers and the results differ. Some are more empathetic to Sandra's plea. Some instantly agree to change their votes. Some feel like they are being backed into a corner. Some get very angry with her and tell her they need the bonus to save their finances. Each of the scenes ring emotionally true, and hold a towering examination of desperation and courage. Time keeps slipping away and Sandra must find the time to persuade enough of her co-workers for the vote.
While the film at times gets a little monotonous and repetitious with numerous visits, at the center of the film is a moving, struggling, and vulnerable character rendered by an amazing performance by Cotillard, and her encounters with the ones she work with feel vivid and ring true. The Dardennes explore nasty business and corporate decisions, the threat of unemployment, which has awful records today in Europe where it's so bad unemployment benefits are extended to three years.
The Dardnenne Bros. are not out to make fun movies, nor are they out to manipulate films. Their films weather it be "The Kid with a Bike", or "L'Enfant" are very non-judgmental. They explore middle to lower class individuals attempting to survive in a world that brings out the worst circumstances in their sociology-economically environment. They also explore human nature and the constant struggle to overcome the most dire moments. The Dardennes understand the human condition, and "Two Days, One Night" is another addition to their impressive oeuvre.
Rating ***1/2 out of ****