Synopsis: Sandra (Cotillard) has just returned to work after recovering from an illness. Realizing that the company can operate with one less employee, management tells Sandra she is to be let go while the remaining employees will each receive a bonus. Over the course of a weekend, Sandra, often with the help of her loving husband (Fabio Rongione), races against time to convince each of her fellow co-workers to sacrifice their much-needed bonuses in order for her to keep her job. With each encounter, Sandra is brought into a different world with unexpected results while her fate hangs in the balance. The Dardennes have brought an extremely relevant social inquiry and turned it into a powerful statement on community solidarity.
Release Date: December 24, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Foreign
The Dardenne Brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, are kind of like the Belgian version of the Coen Brothers or the Soska Sisters; they make all of their movies together, splitting the writing, directing, and producing duties (and credits) between them. The filmmakers are longtime darlings of the Cannes Film Festival, having had great success there with films like L’enfant and The Kid with a Bike. The Dardennes’ newest film, fresh from the 2014 Cannes Festival, is Two Days, One Night.
Two Days, One Night stars Marion Cotillard (Contagion) as Sandra, a young woman with crippling depression who has been on medical leave from her job at a solar panel manufacturing office. While she was out, her boss discovered that the business could run with one less worker, so he held a vote among Sandra’s co-workers; either Sandra could keep her job, or she could be laid off and the rest of the workers would receive a sizable bonus. Of course, the workers voted for the bonus, so when Sandra returns, she is let go. She hears stories about one of her co-workers lying to the others in order to influence the decision, so she asks her boss for another vote. It’s Friday, and the boss agrees to hold another vote on Monday. Sandra has two days and one night (so it’s not just a clever name) to talk to all of her colleagues and convince enough of them to change their minds.
There’s really not a lot to Two Days, One Night. It’s a well-crafted character study of how different people deal with the question of greed vs. loyalty. There are no heroes or villains in the film; the people who don’t want to change their votes have very good reasons for their decisions that are all sensitively demonstrated, and Sandra herself is shown with all of the flaws that a woman with severe depression and anxiety should have. Her pleas to her friends and coworkers are met with everything from tears and hugs to anger and callousness, but everyone has a justification for how they act and feel. Two Days, One Night is a very human film.
Despite its simplicity, Two Days, One Night is a very captivating movie. Sandra is a very sympathetic character, and although there is no ill will towards her detractors, the audience still wants her to succeed. The constantly rising stakes and the ticking clock only make the viewer root for her more. There are a lot of ups and downs in the film, with the arc going from optimistic one moment to absolutely heartbreaking the next, and that gives Cotillard a chance to really flex her muscles and show what she can do. All in all, Two Days, One Night is a perfect example of how minimalist filmmaking can still be entertaining.
Although Two Days, One Night has a fairly substantial cast of supporting characters, the story is centered completely upon Sandra, and Marion Cotillard’s performance is exceptional. She captures all of the desperation and freneticism of a woman who is on the verge of losing everything, swinging between hopeful and hopeless at the drop of a hat as she moves from co-worker to co-worker. It’s an extremely stripped down role for the big Hollywood actress, but Cotillard pulls it off wonderfully. It’s an exhausting role as well, not only because of the emotional rollercoaster aspect of it but because Cotillard is onscreen for literally the entire movie. In a one-woman show like Two Days, One Night, the Dardenne Brothers are lucky to have an actress as talented as Marion Cotillard onboard to help bring their film to life.
The straightforward storyline of Two Days, One Night lends itself well to the Dardenne Brother’s filmmaking style. They are very economical storytellers, with a knack for doing a lot with very little. They also have a unique way of injecting realism into their films, a trait that is on full display in Two Days, One Night. The directors use mostly natural light and long one-takes, letting the camera basically follow the characters around voyeuristically in order to see what’s going to happen next. The tone of the film is further aided by the fact that the beautiful Cotillard is costumed down, spending her time onscreen dressed in jeans and a tank top with her hair in a ragged ponytail. It’s an understated approach, but it brings out the humanistic aspects of the story, allowing the well-written script and Cotillard’s brilliant performance to shine through. The Dardennes play to their strengths with Two Days, One Night, and the movie is that much better because of it.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jean-Pierre Dardenne
- Screenwriter(s): Jean-Pierre DardenneLuc Dardenne
- Cast: Marion Cotillard (Sandra)Fabrizio Rongione (Manu)Catherine Salee (Juliette)
- Editor(s): Marie-Helene Dozo
- Cinematographer: Alain Marcoen
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA