If there is one foreign film you should see this year it’s “Two Days, One Night” from the Dardenne brothers. In short, one woman fights to keep her job over the course of a weekend. The film’s simple premise however, provides the groundwork for a universal human story.
Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is a young Belgian mother who just received the news that her employer is going to terminate her position at the local factory while she is out on sick leave. In fact, after taking a vote, her co-workers elected to take a 1,000 euro bonus rather than keeping her in her position. With only two out of sixteen voting in her favor, Sandra has one weekend to convince the majority to vote for her to keep her job in a secret ballot to be held on Monday.
As the weekend moves forward, Sandra, encouraged by her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), slowly starts to visit each one of her co-workers to humbly ask for them to vote for her to keep her job to help her provide for her family. Each person she encounters has a heart-wrenching decision to make. For most, it’s providing for their own families versus supporting her to keep her job.
Cotillard is definitely one of the great actresses of our time. There is something magnificent about her performance in portraying the everyday blue collar worker with such grace and honesty. She absolutely vanishes into the role in a film directed by brothers who usually cast unknowns.
The Dardenne brothers’ direction in the film is present throughout. Their use of long takes in which the camera doesn’t cut away from the action, but lingers on long enough to make things feel awkward, captures the beauty of Sandra’s journey. The moments when she lets down her confident mask after putting her heart in her hand and offering it to her co-workers only to be rejected, or sheds tears of joy when a co-worker gives her their backing. Their understanding of the subject and use of the medium to tell the story is powerful.
The film is a suspenseful journey into one woman fighting for the ability to earn a living. It’s a reminder to be grateful for those of us who are employed. Most importantly, it’s a lesson in how to keep your head up and never lose yourself in spite of the circumstances.