Two Days One Night (Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne, 2014)
Marion Cotillard and French film. Usually a good mix, except that this film wasn’t even French, but Belgian. And it was a bit too mundane for my tastes. Inspired by various true stories about factory workers in France, Belgium, Italy, and America, Two Days One Night charts Sandra’s (Marion Cotillard) efforts to visit all sixteen of her co-workers who have voted for her dismissal in favour of a bonus. After convincing the boss to allow another secret ballot, she sets out to win the majority vote and her job back.If you like films that are so firmly rooted in reality to the point where it can get a little tedious, then you may well appreciate this effort. We hear Sandra give the same explanation sixteen times, with little variation. We see her walk up stairs, down streets, and up hills. There is no soundtrack, to the point where it took a while to realise something quite serious was happening because there was no musical cue. The whole film felt like an ordeal, but then I guess that was the point. By the end of the film – in fact, way before that – we have a clear sense of the hard slog Sandra has gone through in this one weekend.
You almost have to wonder why a film that is essentially so mundane was even made, but some people are crazy about this style of cinema. This film feels completely real, and it poses a serious dilemma to its audience. Would you sacrifice your own financial security for a colleague who you may barely know? While we root for Sandra to win votes, those in favour of the bonus have legitimate reasons for their decisions. The bonus pays for their utilities for a year, their children’s tuition, etc. They are all struggling. It is also a storyline that is fitting in today’s economic climate. And most importantly, its exploration of mental health issues is done quite marvellously.
Marion Cotillard, so often the very picture of glamour, puts in a different physical performance here – in cowboy boots, jeans, and tank tops with visible bra straps. And yet she still manages to be cute as a button. DAMN THE FRENCH AND THEIR EFFORTLESS BEAUTY! This film is so much better with her in it. Though it often felt laborious, I can never tire of watching her. Without her, I doubt this would have even got an Australian release outside of film festivals, but with her shining star, it can’t be ignored. Two Days One Night wasn’t quite my kettle of fish, but if you like the cinéma vérité style, you may find some real beauty in it.