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Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit)

IFC Films // PG-13 // December 24, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]

Review by Jeff Nelson | posted December 22, 2014 | E-mail the Author

It isn't every day that we get a film involving serious themes of hardship, depression, and morale. An honest portrayal of the human experience can be quite difficult to find successfully executed, especially in the modern world of film. Pictures that ask the audience to place themselves within a moral question is genius, as it makes us think and become engaged with the material on a more personal level. Without this element, the movie can seem distanced and out-of-reach. However, writer/directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne have managed to develop a piece of cinema that is both involving and impactful with Two Days, One Night. Rightfully earning its place as Belgium's official Academy Awards entry for the "Best Foreign Language" category, this is storytelling with purpose.

After fighting a difficult battle with depression, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is ready to return back to her place of employment. However, the young Belgian mother discovers that her co-workers must vote whether they would prefer a sizable pay bonus, or allow Sandra to keep her job. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses, so that she can keep her job. With the support of her husband, children, and close friends, she must find a way to put the odds in her favor.

How far would one go in order to keep their job? This question can be answered differently, depending upon one's situation. In the case of Sandra, the livelihood of her family depends upon it. Her household cannot be kept if she isn't able to keep her job. However, this puts the young woman in an awkward spot, where she must swallow her pride and speak with her co-workers one-on-one over a weekend. It doesn't take very long for this to have its effects on her, as she appears to be held together by nothing more than a string. Her depression is tearing her at the seams, as she feels the need to pop pills in order to suppress any sign of sadness. Sandra is a woman who feels largely defeated, but realizes that she must fight for her family and her well-being. She truly evolves into a character that we learn to care very much about. We truly wish to see her succeed, and that is the sign of a strong character. The screenplay does an excellent job handling this ever-complex portrait of a woman who must fight a tremendous internal struggle, as well as an external one.

Perhaps one of the picture's finest aspects, is its intensely accurate portrayal of depression. Most motion pictures fail to capture the true state of being depressed. It is not an emotion, but a state of mind. From the very first scene, we're introduced to a Sandra who is so unmotivated, that she doesn't move a muscle as the phone continues to ring. After some time, she finally decides to answer it. Uninspired to get out of bed, and willing to turn on those who are supportive at any moment, filmmakers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne have accurately portrayed this element. Two Days, One Night is an emotional roller coaster of a cinematic experience that displays the ups and downs of Sandra's internal struggle to control her depression. We're hurt a little bit more inside every single time that she decides to pop a pill, when she has the undying support of a loving husband by her side. If nothing else, the Dardennes' film is utterly genuine and human.

The biggest gripe that some audiences may have is that the film takes 1 hour and 35 minutes in order to say a message that could be expressed in a much shorter amount of time. Two Days, One Night is subtle, yet utterly complex underneath the surface. While some of the fluidity is occasionally lost, this is a film that takes what appears to be a small conflict, and enlarges it to monumental proportions. The picture's theme of morality is abundantly clear, both on the side of Sandra, as well as her co-workers. Nearly every individual she visits asks, "How many others are willing to give up their bonuses?" Everybody is terrified of being an independent thinker, even if it's at the expense of a family's well-being. Meanwhile, some of Sandra's co-workers desperately need the bonus. This leads her to the question of, is it selfish to fight for my job? It's a truly intriguing debate that continues to go on within Sandra's head throughout the duration of the film.

Once again delivering an exceptional performance, Marion Cotillard is brilliant as Sandra. She evokes such a sense of sincerity in her portrayal, that it's nearly impossible to not be entirely convinced. She perfectly displays her state within these struggles without having to say a word. Within the ups and downs of her depression, we see her in moments of solace, as well as utter defeat. This is a wonderfully impactful performance that is a truly unforgettable. Meanwhile, Fabrizio Rongione is quite good in the role of her husband, Manu. He's entirely believable as Sandra's support system, as he fights to keep his wife motivated to keep her job and elevate her confidence.

This is an intimate and thought-provoking look at hardship, depression, and morale. Marion Cotillard is transfixing in what might be one of her most subtly brilliant performances yet. Morality is a motif that runs deep in this picture, as the protagonist is forced to make a decision that could affect the lives of everybody around her. What might seem like a small conflict is enlarged to mountainous proportions, as she's forced to fight her depression, as well as for the life and well-being of her family. Two Days, One Night is subtle, morally complex, and largely impactful. Highly recommended!



Highly Recommended

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