Women's Day


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Women's Day (Dzien Kobiet)
"What makes this more interesting than the average little-guy-against-the-system drama is that it's also a compellng character study."

Have you struggled to hold onto a job in tough economic times? Express concern and people will tell you you're not working hard enough. Protest at that and you may well be told you're not working smart enough. Perhaps the truth is that, in a cut-throat environment, you'e not working nasty enough.

Katarzyna Kwiatkowska is Halina. She's a single mother. All her life, she's struggled. She's never had a room of her own. When she's promoted to manager at the supermarket where she works, it's cause for celebration. At last, a comfortable apartment and new furniture. A computer for her daughter Misia (Julia Czuraj). The camera loves her as she swaggers down the aisles flashing a smile at cans of soup and bottles of detergent. She has arrived.

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Then she's told that the shop is struggling. To save her job she'll have to sack one of her former colleagues - "the old one or the pregnant one."

Things go from bad to worse. As Halina commences an affair with her supervisor (Eryk Lubos) it's unclear who's exploiting who. She persuades him to get the shop a forklift so they can reduce the backbreaking work of shifting stock, but the safety training to go with it is slashed from 48 hours to 20 minutes. Her staff are asked to work increasingly lengthy shifts with no overtime. Everybody feels forced to comply for fear of redundancy. Everybody signs the forms pushed in front of them. Nobody is coping, and when things get really ugly, Halina herself, by now friendless, is pushed beyond the point where she can cope.

Sad to say, anyone who has ever worked in retail will recognise some of the abuses depicted here. For others, it's a wake-up call, a dramatic exposé of the way those at the bottom of the economic heap can be exploited. What makes it more interesting than the average little-guy-against-the-system drama is that it's also a compelling character study. Halina doesn't resist when we want her to. Although it's clear she's uncomfortable about what's asked of her, she complies nonetheless. She's willing to push others under in order to keep her own head above water. Only late in the day does she realise the folly of this approach. Other kinds of fear then rise up to control her. This means that the fight she eventually does mount seems far braver, far more meaningful than those initiated by ordinary heroes. Halina is just an ordinary woman who has had enough - but will the former colleagues who now loathe her be willing to support her in court?

Alongside the main thrust of the action is a subplot involving Misia that hints at the different approaches young people are taking in seeking ways out of this economic trap. Halina's gradual connection with her daughter suggests a tired adult workforce beginning to get in tune with the natural radicalism of the young. It's complemented by stylish cinematography that gives the film a youthful energy when it needs it most, and that plays around with audience expectations of what makes people powerful and what makes them cool. Smart, savvy and altogether more sophisticated than you'd expect, Women's Day will give you a day to remember.

Reviewed on: 28 Jan 2013
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Women's Day packshot
A hard-pressed single mother is grateful to be promoted by the supermarket she works for, but grows angry when she realises how ruthlessly it is treating its workers.

Director: Maria Sadowska

Writer: Maria Sadowska, Katarzyna Terechowicz

Starring: Katarzyna Kwiatkowska, Eryk Lubos, Grazyna Barszczewska, Klara Bielawka

Year: 2012

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Poland


Glasgow 2013

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