Two Days, One Night is a refreshingly compassionate look at a moral dilemma that no one wants to be at the center of. As written and directed by the Dardenne brothers, the film is a focused, frankly heartbreaking take on personal morals, selfishness, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for others. In an age where workers are increasingly deemed expendable, Two Days, One Night arrives with striking timeliness.
Marion Cotillard plays Sandra, a wife and mother battling depression who’s just been released from the hospital. Upon arriving home, she discovers that she no longer has a job at the small solar panel plant at which she works. It turns out that in her absence it was discovered that sixteen workers, as opposed to seventeen, could get the job done. When given the choice between retaining Sandra or receiving a bonus of 1,000 Euros, her co-workers jointly vote for the bonus. After talking her boss into a re-vote on Monday, Sandra has one weekend to visit her co-workers one-by-one in a last-ditch attempt to save her job.
The Dardennes take this simple premise and expose some surprisingly poignant moments. Some agree to forego the bonus out of sympathy and because they think it’s the right thing to do, while others simply need the money and can’t help her. Others worry about what it will mean to their standing with the company. All of this sits behind the overarching truth that Sandra is beaten down and has no self-confidence. Throughout the weekend she frequently wants to quit and feels ashamed of her situation. She views herself as a beggar and feels that anyone who chooses to keep her is doing so out of pity. Her husband, Manu (Rongione), spends as much time propping her up as he does driving her around. He views it as crucial that she sees this through, no matter the result, to prove her self-worth.
Cotillard, who plays distraught as well as any actress, is phenomenal in the well-drawn and emotionally complex role of Sandra. Each encounter emanates anxiety, embarrassment, and guilt, and Cotillard brings every emotion to life. Fabrizio Rongione is stellar as Manu, a supportive husband who’s trying to help his wife get back on track.
Two Days, One Night brings honesty and realism to a situation with a shifting moral barometer. After all, it’s not as if her co-workers asked for this decision. Each resolution makes sense in its own way, even if the viewer doesn’t agree with the reasoning. The film’s final moments exhibit the selflessness that is at the heart of this story. It’s a touching, thought-provoking experience.
Studio: Sundance Selects
Length: 95 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for some mature thematic elements.
Theatrical Release: December 24, 2014 (Limited)
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne
Written by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salée, Batiste Sornin, Pili Groyne