*** and 1/2 out of ****
Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises, La Vie en Rose) was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for the Belgian film Two Days, One Night. It’s an outstanding performance in an exceptional movie.
Written and directed by the Dardenne Brothers, the film’s story centers around Sandra (Cotillard), a young mother in Belgium recovering from a bout of clinical depression. It doesn’t help her state of mind when she learns that her boss has given her 16 coworkers a choice - let Sandra keep her job and lose their bonus or receive a bonus and see Sandra laid off.
Over the course of a weekend, Sandra travels from coworker to coworker in a desperate attempt to save her job and keep her family’s home, aided by her sympathetic husband (Fabrizio Rongione). Most of her coworkers don’t want her to lose her job and are resentful of management for making them choose between Sandra and a bonus, but some can’t pass up the extra money.
Sandra is left battling her own depression and the indignity of having to beg for her livelihood. She even wonders if it’s worth it - if she convinces enough coworkers to vote for her, will the others be openly hostile to her at work because they lost their bonuses?
It’s a movie that doesn’t present easy answers. Like the Italian neorealist classic Bicycle Thieves, Two Days, One Night makes riveting, poignant cinema out of the struggles of the working class. Many Americans are notoriously loath to read subtitles, but this is a film that deserves to be seen.
For indie fans, Two Days, One Night’s focus on the sinister things the powerful will do to the working class drones underneath them would make it a fascinating double feature with the dark comedy Cheap Thrills (about a rich guy who keeps offering money to two hard-luck men to complete a series of increasingly dangerous dares).