fri 19/07/2024

Two Days, One Night | reviews, news & interviews

Two Days, One Night

Two Days, One Night

The Dardennes triumph once again - this time by collaborating with Marion Cotillard

Her fate is in their hands: Marion Cotillard walks the line in 'Two Days, One Night'

The positioning of Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard (one of the few actresses to have confidently made that tricky transition from French darling to Hollywood leading lady) at the centre of the Dardennes' latest says less about the artistic integrity of the filmmakers - which remains beautifully intact - and more about the approach of the actress, who continues to do remarkable work in challenging fare despite her starry status.

The premise is strikingly simple: Sandra (Cotillard) has returned to her job at a solar panel factory after a spell of depression. Soon after, she's told that they can only afford to keep her on if her colleagues agree, by a majority vote, to forgo their yearly bonus. The first vote was overwhelmingly against her but - due to the duplicitous dealings of the factory's foreman - her friends there have persuaded the manager to hold a second blind ballot first thing on Monday morning. Encouraged by her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione, pictured below right with Cotillard), she spends the weekend visiting each of her 16 colleagues, trying to talk them round.

Sandra cuts an incredibly sympathetic figure. The waves of depression are lapping up at her, the tide of fatigue threatening to pull her under - yet she gets up and gets on with it. Forced into the position of both beggar and agitator, Sandra endures numerous humiliations as she fights for her (presumably poorly paid, as almost all her colleagues seem to be struggling) manufacturing job, not out of love for a vocation but out of financial necessity, with her encroaching illness adding a survival dimension to this desperate quest.

The Dardennes' trademark handheld camerawork emulates their restless, nervous lead, and gives the film a sense of unforced urgency. The deceptively simple premise ingeniously allows for an exploration of the impact of globalisation and the recession - so here that manifests itself in paltry wages and immoral practices in a de-unionised environment (where self-interest has replaced solidarity).

It unfolds with immense believability and has the power to catch you off guard

It presents an all-too recognisable world where blue-collar work means living on the breadline and where two wages will barely even suffice. The film's ever-present politics could not be worn more lightly and the approach is rather effective, as it eases its messages under your skin. Cotillard proves herself a fine fit for the Belgian brothers' brand of subtle but invigorating social realism with a performance that's credible, unshowy and hugely emotionally affecting.

Two Days, One Night unfolds with immense believability and has the power to catch you off guard with moments of simple decency or kindness that seem to come from nowhere. Those of a sensitive disposition might, all of a sudden, find their heart leaping into their mouths, or their eyes flooding with tears. Despite the potentially mawkish, manipulative nature of the material and the contrivance of the concept, like all the Dardennes' films this never feels false. There is no certainty regarding how each interaction will play out, or how this will end; it's as strange, random and unpredictable as life itself. Instead we get moments that ring movingly true for better or worse, and that have the potential to emotionally floor you because of it.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Two Days, One Night



Cotillard proves herself a fine fit for the brothers' brand of subtle but invigorating social realism


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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