Two Days, One Night


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Marion Cotillard - "bravura and introspective performance."
"Marion Cotillard tenderly lets us in on every nuance of dread, every vital decision."

Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit), the latest masterpiece of conscience by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne has a plot as simple as its subject matter is urgent and profound. Sandra (Marion Cotillard), a worker in a Belgian solar panel factory, after having suffered a nervous breakdown, finds out that in her absence, the 16 co-workers were asked by management to vote if they preferred for her to return, or take instead a €1,000 bonus for themselves. Only two voted for Sandra to keep her job.

The vote will be repeated Monday morning, this time in secret, because of talk about previous intimidations by supervisor Jean-Marc (formidable Dardenne regular Olivier Gourmet is a threatening presence, even off-screen for most of the film).

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Sandra has the weekend, the time frame of the title, to convince her colleagues to let her keep her job. Her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) works in the kitchen of a highway pit stop restaurant, they have two children, and the loss of her job would be a financial disaster. The situation clearly already is a catastrophe for her state of mind and sense of self. While she tries to control anxiety attacks with Xanax, Manu does his best to support his wife so that she can face her fears and confront the 14 hostile entities.

Violent beeps from the initial phone call alert compete with the oven timer, announcing that the plum pie she baked for her children is ready. A bird singing prompts her to say "I wish that were me".

She faces one huge obstacle at a time knowing that her colleagues are strapped for money to support their families. Going from door to door, begging the relative strangers she works with to show some empathy - all of this during their weekend of rest, seems insurmountable.

Marion Cotillard tenderly lets us in on every nuance of dread, every vital decision. Just as Cecile De France did so brilliantly in the Dardennes' last film, The Kid With A Bike, Cotillard completely makes us forget the movie star to reveal the human being.

The care and attention to detail includes the costumes by Maïra Ramedhan Levi. Over the span of the weekend, Cotillard wears two different brightly colored racer back tank tops, one turquoise, one coral. Both times, her underwear straps, red and silver respectively, show because the cut is wrong for the tops. We see what lies underneath, what she doesn't want to show, just like the tears, despair, badly hurt basic pride - she slips into the armour of no armour. In the film's last shot, the jeans and boots she wore throughout gain a fresh connotation - she has become Gary Cooper in Fred Zinnemann's High Noon after his tour of duty convincing the good town's people that moral decisions exist.

Sandra battles her anxiety attacks and hyperventilation on the road with seemingly endless bottles of water. Cotillard shows an individual who is drowning and dying of thirst at the same time because the system she lives in has no room for solidarity. She has to beg open a crack or all is lost. And the Dardennes make that clear, not only for her but for us all.

Reviewed on: 27 Sep 2014
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Two Days, One Night packshot
Sandra, a young woman assisted by her husband, has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.
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Read more Two Days, One Night reviews:

Richard Mowe ***1/2

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Writer: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Starring: Marion Cotillard, Olivier Gourmet, Catherine Salée, Fabrizio Rongione, Christelle Cornil

Year: 2014

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Belgium

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