Thursday, February 12, 2015

Two Days, One Night (2014) ***

The 2014 Belgian film, 2 Days, One Night, starring Marion Cotillard (Sandra) tells the simple story of a woman trying to save her job.  She is a married working mother with two kids.  On a Saturday morning she's informed her fellow employees at a welding company voted to remove her so they can receive a bonus of 1000 Euros.  Now, Sandra has a weekend to convince her co-workers to change their minds.

2 Days, One Night provides a view of the modern middle/working class in Europe.  I'll confess ignorance to the state of the labor movement in Europe.  In America, the movement has faced serious setbacks over the past forty years.  The idea of solidarity among workers seems to have diminished.  The film suggests the same may be happening in Europe.  As portrayed in 2 Days, One Night, the company's managerial situation is a quasi- partnership between owners and workers. I'm sure some of the cultural nuance went over my head.  

The film opens with Sandra getting the bad news.  Her husband convinces her to set out and meet with each co-worker to change their mind.  So she sets out to sway them.  Her attempts at friendly persuasion meet with mixed results.  Some are compassionate and agree to forego their bonus, while others treat her with a quiet disdain and refuse to help.  We can understand their side as well:  One father says he needs the bonus to pay for his daughter's tuition.  Others have more selfish reasons. The story's conflict points to a compelling ethical dilemma:  How far does one go to help their neighbor in need?

And what does it feel like to be a person asking for help?  Asking for help is never easy. Sandra questions herself repeatedly as the movie unfolds.  We learn she's struggled with depression and her marriage could be in trouble.  At times she's about to give up, but finds the strength to keep going. Directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne never resort to sentimentality to ratchet up the tension, instead the camera follows Sandra as if you're watching a documentary. Small, naturalistic moments carry the film.

Cotillard is familiar to American audiences with plum roles in Public Enemies and The Dark Knight Rises.  As Sandra, she gives a realistic performance full of vulnerability and quiet courage.  The performance has earned her a well deserved Oscar nomination.  2 Days, One Night is an underdog story made with precision and care, rooted in realism. Well worth checking out.

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