By Anna Power @KitNapz
In Two Days, One Night we are taken on a Homeric Odyssey of sorts. The Dardenne Brothers (Rosetta, The Kid with a Bike) are masters of subtlety, telling simple stories about ordinary working class people, which reveal more about us as human beings, than thought possible.
Here we encounter Sandra (Marion Cotillard) a blue-collar worker, emerging from a severe bout of clinical depression, only to be told that her job is no longer viable, an unfathomable blow at such a difficult time. Worse still, the management have seen fit to force her co-workers to vote for her dismissal in her absence in order to keep their bonuses, an unscrupulous supervisor coercing them into action. It is into this hostile terrain that Sandra is feebly thrust and with the encouragement of her husband, Manu and co-worker, Juliette and the imminent financial difficulty she potentially faces, she has no choice but to fight back.
Aided by her friend Juliette she secures agreement for a secret re-ballot and then the real work of convincing her colleagues to save her job at financial loss to themselves and their families, begins. These are poor working people and this is a hell of a choice for them to have to make. Sandra knows only two well the gargantuan task she faces in convincing them. Over the course of a weekend, she is forced to go door-to-door to canvas their votes to try to save her livelihood and protect her family from unemployment and poverty.
It is the journey, not the destination that matters and out of this simple, repetitious plot we encounter ourselves as human beings and the full gamut of human emotion, greed, compassion, selfishness, rage and despair. This is intense, raw, emotional filmmaking at its minimal best.
Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone, La Vie En Rose) gives a stunning performance, subtly nuanced and one of the best depictions of depression I’ve seen on screen. Sandra, despite her inherent fragility shows immense courage in the face of crippling unfairness and the harsh realities of economic inequality. It’s a truly visceral emotional roller coaster ride.
In Two days, One Night, The Dardenne brothers succeed in conveying the real plights of working people without embellishment or affectation (something lesser filmmakers could never manage), producing a film of great insight and depth into the human psyche and the struggle for survival amongst working class people in today’s society. This is masterful modern French cinema at its best.