Two Days, One Night sees Sandra (Cotillard) return to work from a leave of absence (due to a depression), only to find that her job is no longer tenable. This requires the staff to vote for Sandra's dismissal or to potentially be dismissed themselves. After the employees allied with Sandra complain, they get an opportunity to cast another vote on the next working day, Sandra has the weekend to campaign for her job at the expense of her colleagues' bonuses.
The course is set and the debilitatingly fragile Sandra must put her resolve to the test and confront every member of the team to sway their vote. The task seems overwhelming, because it would be to anyone, it seems impossible for Sandra carrying her condition.
The Dardenne brothers frame the context of Sandra and Manu's family and then dispatch Sandra to every corner of their town. Every single interaction is a wonderful snapshot of the fully realised characters and families that dictate how she frames her argument. There's also a very intentional sense that we're scoring the outcome of the film, hoping and pleading along with the character. It's engaging and astute writing that is able to laugh and find humour in something out of the sorrow. The Dardenne brothers' camera is a silent passenger of Sandra's life. It singularly observes her every move of this journey. It's such an unobtrusive yet nurturing affect because you feel that you're the only one that's getting this perspective of what she's going through.
Cotillard is just divine in her fragility. Her depiction of depression allows you to bear witness to the endless lethargy, the thin membrane masking her raw emotions and the reliance on pharmaceutical relief to maintain composure. Scene after scene it's a joy to watch her physical performance; especially swelling with hope that she's got a chance, or with particularly callous co-workers prodding her to react, quake and have to wrestle her reflexive reactions back to a state of composure. Cotillard and the Dardenne brothers aren't afraid to take the character to dire moments and they're expertly handled. Rongione's Manu is her rock. There are so many times that Sandra feels outmatched by the prospect of exponential rejection that she is always looking for a way out. Manu doesn't push her, he gently nudges and supports her with such unerring love. He's the man you want in your corner. The whole tapestry of supporting cast and their increasingly surprising reactions to Sandra's pleas only enhance the work with every additional interaction.
Two Days, One Night is the Dardenne Brothers great document for compassion faced with the hurdles of contemporary working class struggle. It's masterfully crafted work from a pair of maestros.
[rating=4] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne Written by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne Starring: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Pili Groyne, Simon Caudry, Catherine Salée,
BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.