TWO DAYS ONE NIGHT
FILM REVIEW - TWO DAYS ONE NIGHT
Release Date: 22nd August 2014 (Ireland)
Running Length: 95 minutes
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Written by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Cinematography: Alain Marcoen
Distributed by: Artificial Eye
A work of social realism that asks some difficult questions of the viewer.
For all the empty optimism in the media about economic recovery and “turning a corner” (personally, I think that I may have turned four corners, thus ending up back where I started), the mood outside my window still seems very dour indeed. Regrettably, the theme of the Dardenne brothers latest offering will still be familiar to many households. Two Days One Night is a work of social realism that asks some difficult questions of the viewer. Faced with the either/or choice of saving a colleague’s job or accepting a sorely needed bonus, how would you vote? Could you honestly say that you would do the decent thing and vote in favour of saving your co-workers’ livelihood, or would the bribe be too appealing to ignore?
Such is the dilemma Sandra (Marion Cotillard) faces when she tries to return to work after suffering a breakdown. During her compassionate leave period, Sandra’s duties have been adequately carried out without her and her foreman is attempting to instigate a vote that will make her absence permanent. Faced with redundancy and battling a debilitating depression, Sandra has two days to convince a majority of her colleagues to vote for her job instead of taking a €1000 bonus. She spends a humiliating weekend going door-to-door and effectively begging her co-workers for her job. A few treat Sandra with solidarity and compassion, others with outright hostility. For some the bonus means a new patio, but for others it is the difference between barely making ends meet and going under. For her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), Sandra’s battle is about more than just her job. As he desperately struggles to keep her head above water and coax her through a crippling despair, Manu’s fight is to engender hope in a hopeless situation.
The performances of both Cotillard and Rongione cannot be faulted. Cotillard infuses Sandra with the fragile desperation of a broken woman desperately trying to maintain her dignity, while Rongione is utterly convincing as her tenacious husband who refuses to give up. The Dardennes keep the framing tight on Cotillard throughout. When she speaks with others off camera, we are often denied access to the subject of her attention. By keeping the focus squarely on Sandra, a claustrophobic effect is created that constantly reminds us of her limited prospects. The handheld camera and natural lighting add a level of realism to this despondent piece, but still manages to end on a note of sorely needed optimism. Two Days One Night is a film about the struggle to maintain one’s integrity in the face of redundancy and the loss of hope. It shares much with the work of Ken Loach, and in spite of what the news keeps telling us, it is a theme that sadly remains infinitely relatable.