My growing affinity for France and French films is a very good thing (so I’d like to think) and I only get more excited when I watch a film with my go-to french actress, Marion Cotillard. Perhaps it’s the familiar face that drew me to this project, but a close friend of mine simply adores the directors of this film and after watching this, I’ve begun to explore their previous films. More than anything, this film served as a reminded that more people should be watching foreign films in general and if they believe there are no good stories left.
Sandra (Marion Cotillard), a wife and mother, has been recovering from an illness for some time now. She’s been missing work and laying in bed all day, practically reliant on pills to make her feel slightly better. Her husband (Fabrizio Rongione) worries about her, but things really go downhill after Sandra receives a telephone call. After she hangs up, she informs her husband that she’s lost her job in a vote among her co-workers, in favor of a 1,000 Euro bonus.
After talking with her close friend and co-worker and her boss, Sandra manages to convince him to do another vote on the next Monday, as one of the other co-workers made it seem like someone had to lose their job. So, Sandra semi-reluctantly attempts to convince each co-worker to reconsider their vote and help her to keep her job. Every person has a need for that extra 1,000 Euros, but every person is also a human. Whether or not they’re a decent or selfish human is the question that Sandra is dreading.
Two Days, One Night is a moving French/Belgian drama that follows a fragile, yet terrific Marion Cotillard. The film’s premise is nothing flashy and it’s execution is rather standard, but the cast carries you through the 90-minute journey of a down-on-her-luck woman. If the story feels commonplace to anyone, it’s because this is a film that’s grounded in reality and deals with issues that real people deal with. The added bonus of competition and gain from her firing adds a tricky element to this film, as people reveal their morals and true colors.
Marion Cotillard is far more reserved in this role than I believe that I have ever seen her before. Her character is getting over a sickness and is still frail, ultimately leading to her depression that follows her firing. She doesn’t believe it’s right that she lost her job, but she also doesn’t want to take away anyone’s bonuses. She thinks realistically, but she holds little hope that anyone will change their ways, hence her snarky attitude towards her husband. Her door-to-door pleas are powerful and moving, each revealing something about her and the person she’s talking to. She has sympathy and empathy for those in need of the bonus and doesn’t hold anything against them, despite still not keeping her job. She’s a curious, depressing, and wonderful individual all at the same time.
Almost as powerful and affecting as Cotillard are the other employees whom either choose to vote for her, or for the bonus. One man in particular has the greatest moment in the film, in which he breaks down, ashamed of his initial vote. The emotion that Cotillard conveys is unrelenting and it physically and emotionally affects each person, eliciting some hateful reactions as well. Everyone is struggling in life and an extra 1,000 Euros certainly helps, but at what cost? Some of the co-workers are more on-the-fence than others and I loved the exploration of each individuals life, especially because you get to see how they live and view the world.
Directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne have a very intriguing eye for personalities and different aspects of life. Their central focus is no one special. She’s a mother, a wife, and she happens to be working. Her scenario isn’t all that better/worse than anyone else’s and this is a story of her persistence and resilience, despite facing adversity. This film isn’t fantastical or unrealistic and that’s what separates it from a lot of the other foreign films that I’ve seen this year. Their work isn’t necessarily minimalist, but it certainly feels that way at times.
For being a 90-minute film, I must say that this film did feel rather slow and that’s mostly due to the fact that there’s nothing really exciting that happens. Given that this is a story of someone’s regular life, there’s not too much that goes on and nothing ever leaves you on the edge of your seat. There are moments of brief outbursts that add something edgy to this film, but those moments are over just as quick as they began. There are intricacies to Cotillard’s character which we see on the surface, but there’s a revealing past that we’re robbed of knowing anything about. We are thrown into the story as she’s recovering from an illness, but we don’t get an idea as to how bad it was and how it really affected her. I felt like we needed to spend more time on her life and her interactions with her husband.
Two Days, One Night is a fine foreign film that certainly showcases a more restrained Cotillard and has a very simple plot for anyone to follow. Most anyone can relate to the feeling of losing a job and the effects it has on not only yourself, but your family as well. Mentalities shift and people will do most anything to keep their job and keep providing for their loved ones. The subtleties of this film will wow you, but that’s about all the amazement you’ll derive. It’s not to say that this film is boring, but it would certainly benefit from some more excitement and maybe some greater stakes. There’s lots of potential with this kind of story and while the directors capitalized on Cotillard’s performance, there’s still much to be gained from everyone else.
Two Days, One Night Trailer