Two Days, One Night

Two Days, One Night photo starrating-3stars.jpgBy now the Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, have established themselves as a major force within the Belgian movie industry. They write, produce and direct their pictures together. They’ve been nominated for the Palme d’Or, the top prize at Cannes, SIX times and have actually won twice. Their latest is the French language Two Days, One Night, yet another one of their films that appropriates the aesthetics of directors like Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini. The principles of 1940s Italian neorealism is updated to modern day Belgium in a tale that documents one working class woman’s journey to reclaim her job.

Sandra (Marion Cotillard) has suffered a nervous breakdown and has taken a leave of absence. While away, her colleagues pick up her slack by putting in longer hours. In exchange they are promised the hefty bonus of €1000 Euros. Now redundant, Sandra’s ability to return to work hinges on a vote amongst her co-workers. They must agree to either forgo their extra salary so she can be hired back OR keep their compensation and invalidate her position.

Marion Cotillard is a gorgeous woman and she’s naturally pretty here but not the unattainable beauty she often plays in American films. She is a working class mother and wife, dealing with the threat of losing her job. She presents a desperate woman persuading her co-workers to relinquish their bonuses. In this way, the small solar-panel factory where they’re employed, will hire her back. Sandra is not well. She has nightmares during the day, cannot stop crying, and is popping pills at an alarming rate just to stay calm. Cotillard conveys a world weary vulnerability. She is utterly believable as a woman still suffering from serious mental illness.

What isn’t credible is that a company would decide whether to rehire a sick employee back, by placing that decision in the hands of said person’s co-workers . Perhaps this kind of egalitarianism on the job is commonplace in Belgium but in the U.S. there is a distinct hierarchy in the workplace. At any level of responsibility, one reports to a person known as a supervisor and that boss is responsible for making decisions in the best interest of the company. Whether people get hired or fired is not left to one’s peers to decide. The premise is so contrived and far fetched that it makes the nature of the tragedy seem kind of ridiculous. Add to the fact that the entire movie consists of watching a woman, albeit a sympathetic one, beg for her job to one person after another for 90 minutes. Marion Cotillard commands your attention but the drama itself is awkward, demeaning and unpleasantly repetitive.


21 Responses to “Two Days, One Night”

  1. Interesting take on it. I’ve heard so many good things about it and I’m still anxious to see it. Unfortunately it still hasn’t opened up in this area. Frustrating.


  2. I’d love to see this but it’s not in my corner of the world.


  3. Terrific review Mark! I’m so glad I’m not the only who thinks the plot is completely nuts! Cotillard’s performance is good and a lot of people seem to fall head over heels whenever she has a film out, but a lot of reviews fail to mention this utterly bonkers situation her character finds herself in. I just can’t believe this is a real-life scenario in Belgium – surely she would demand an employment tribunal and her weekend is consequently not wasted! But that wouldn’t make for a very long film now, would it?!


    • There’s so many things wrong with this premise. That this company is run according to the whims of the employees and not on what is profitable for the company, is ludicrous.

      You bring up an excellent point as well. If she was diagnosed with a medical condition, clinical depression, and allowed to take a medical leave because of it. An employer would face serious legal issues (employment tribunal is a UK thing) if they were to then fire her upon her return.

      Would she have to fight for her job if she became pregnant?


  4. Cotillard was great here and it’s no wonder why she got a nomination. Good review Mark.


  5. Nice review.

    I’m disappointed that the film isn’t doing better, but based on the subject matter, I can understand it. Our own lives are tough enough – so a night at the cinema is something we spend our money for hoping for entertainment.


  6. I’ve been quite curious about this movie and reviewing it for my site, especially since Marion Cotillard picked up steam during award’s season.


  7. I agree that Cotillard is naturally pretty and utterly believable as a woman suffering serious mental illness in this film. I didn’t have issues with the credibilty of her situation like you did though. I accepted that since this film takes place in Belgium that there would be differences in rules and culture that could account this deranged process of deciding her fate. I’ll side with you that watching her beg people over and over can be repetitive, BUT I think she encounters enough different types of people to keep things interesting for me. You really see the full scope of humanity in terms of how people react to her pleas. The scene where she finds the guy coaching soccer really got to me.


  8. This was pretty good. Marion has been better in other movies. No chance of winning Best Actress for this one.


  9. Interesting thoughts. Shame you didn’t like it as much as others.


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