Two Days, One Night (2014)
“Two Days, One Night” is a critically acclaimed French-language film directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, probably better known for their previous film “The Kid with a Bike” (2011). The plot here is uncomplicated: Belgium; a depressed married mother of two Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is having problems at work. The management of her solar-panels-making company proposed to make Sandra redundant if the majority of the staff (9 out of 16 workers) agrees to do so (there will be a secret vote). If the majority votes for Sandra to be redundant, each of the workers will receive €1,000 bonus, but will also be required to work slightly longer hours. In that vein, the film portrays the two days and one night which Sandra spends trying to convince her co-workers to vote in favour of her staying with the company (and against their bonus).
One of the great things about “Two Days, One Night” is its focus on human face-to-face interactions as opposed to some emphasis on sub-plots or sub-characters that could hijack the whole movie and turn it into something else. Throughout the whole movie all that the main character really does is to go door-to-door, persuading her co-workers to give up their bonus for her place in the company. Yes, it is simplistic, and yes, it becomes a touch repetitive, but, partly, this is where the charm of the film resides. Another great thing about this film is the magnificent, unparalleled performance by Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose” (2007), “Rust and Bone” (2012)). She carries the movie on her shoulders and all alone, delivering a master-class scenes. She is so mesmerising to watch in every scene, and, thus, really deserves her Academy Award nomination.
The main weakness of the film is that the background to the story is completely unrealistic. Even considering all possible job-search hardships, one has a feeling when watching “Two Days, One Night” that Sandra does not live in a European country, Belgium, but in a fantasy world where there are no human rights, no employment law or employee’s rights, no benefits for unemployed or for families which have children, and she interacts with some “sub-human” cynics who are prepared to see their co-worker and friend suffer and get fired than part with their coveted €1000. Besides, Sandra humiliates herself so much in the process of persuading her co-workers to part with their bonus that it seems like this is the only place in the world where she could work, that she would never ever find a new job and she has no devoted husband at all, or no helping hand at hand. This is all not true, and the plot simply beggars belief. Besides, each time Sandra asks for help from her co-workers, each of them first asks: “How many other workers will be prepared to lose their bonuses for you?” Now, no elaboration is needed here… If Sandra lived in some country in Africa with no legal regime and had no husband with lots of children, maybe one can re-consider her predicament, but who would want to work for a boss who proposes such an inhuman bonus-giving arrangement at work anyway? One call to higher authorities and that boss of the solar-panel factory would be the one looking for a job all weekend for treating his employee in a way which undermines her human dignity, and the right to be treated fairly and respectfully at work. All this detracts from the overall drama of the film, and makes the process of sympathising with Sandra difficult and the overall story less heart-breaking.
If one thinks a bit more about it, one would realise the film’s ridiculous premise, and that also means that one would feel much less for Sandra and her troubles, especially the Sandra in the movie who seems to be more concerned with having her next medical drugs’ fix (intentionally overdosing once), then thinking about her children’s future (especially in case of her death). However, “Two Days, One Night” is still a movie worth watch for Marion Cotillard’s masterful, unforgettable performance. 6/10