two_days_one_night_1Year: 2014
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Writer(s): Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Region of Origin: Belgium, Italy, France
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: PG-13
Digital, Color, 95 mins

Synopsis: Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job. (Source)

When’s the last time you felt truly helpless, like everything was out of your hands? That’s the idea and emotion that Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne tackle in their latest film, Two Days, One Night. The literal title, which is the span of the film’s plot, takes an extremely simple premise to craft one of the most taut character studies you’ve seen in a while. It’s repetitious for good reason and anchored by a heartbreaking performance from Marion Cotillard, whose character faces the thought of losing her entire way of life before finding the will to fight back, tooth and claw. It’s an incredible story of courage, blinding integrity and most of all, hope.

The film focuses on Sandra, a young mother in Belgium, who discovers that her co-workers at a solar-panel factory have voted to let her go in exchange for a hefty raise. The news is devastating for Sandra, who’s just returned to work after taking a leave of absence due to an illness. During her absence, it’s determined by an oppressive foreman that the crew can go on without her. Rendered redundant, one of Sandra’s only friends at the company urges their boss to a re-vote. This leaves Sandra the course of a weekend to track down those who voted against her and beg them to reconsider their choice, so that she can keep her job. With such a straightforward, yet strong premise, the Dardenne’s excel at telling a very human tale that amounts to one hell of a wallop.

There are absolutely no frills to the film, and its fierce focus to Sandra’s seemingly impossible task keeps us hooked till the unexpected end. Given the nature of the story, the film is very cyclical, taking us one-by-one to each of Sandra’s co-workers as she finds the audacity to ask them to basically forfeit something they all need in order to save her life. The Dardenne’s take the repetitious nature of the idea to challenge our expectations, with each visit bringing wholly different results which run the gamut. Some of her co-worker’s are ashamed, some are conflicted and some have no problem choosing a raise over her. Through it all, each encounter slowly builds a patchwork of layers to Sandra’s character, who is understanding and humble, without at all a modicum of entitlement. As she reaches the end of her journey, she is profoundly changed by what she discovers and learns through each person, and it all amounts to the most shocking climax you can imagine, one that will really stick with you long after the film is over.

two_days_one_night_3With such an undivided approach to character, the film really succeeds thanks to Marion Cotillard’s searing performance. Cotillard is utterly compelling, hitting rock bottom at the very start of the film, only to genuinely learn and grow as a person throughout the course of the film. She’s a gentle-natured character, tortured by what she needs to do and always keen to the ways that her survival may potential mean something bad for someone else. It’s a difficult burden to bear, and Cotillard plays the role beautifully and with plenty of believability and nuance.

In the hands of anyone else, the film might’ve been a bore, but the Dardenne’s direction and their tight control of the film’s roller coaster of emotions, the film is harrowing, yet uplifting experience. Without any frivolity, Two Days, One Night is proof positive that a good story doesn’t need flash to cut through the noise, just pitch-perfect execution and strong convictions – this film has both in spades.

Crome Rating: 4.5/5