“Two Days, One Night” directed by the Dardenne brothers, is a powerful social drama about a woman trying to stay employed. Never straining to be anything but an unaffected piece of life, it’s a bold statement about the struggles in the workplace today. What’s happening is that employers are discovering that by cutting down on staff – they can increase profit for themselves and coworkers. This movie is concerned with the average working person, granting insight into the difficulties they encounter on an everyday basis.
Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is married and has a daughter – supporting them by working at a Solar Panel Company in Liege, Belgium. Her life seems to be on pause; just going through the motions. Even her husband seems to be more of a friend, giving advice from a distance. The directors don’t explain everything about them – hinting at things that may have happened in their past. Being on leave due to a nervous breakdown – she is notified that her bosses are holding a vote among the employees whether she should be fired. If they vote to have her fired, they will receive monetary bonuses. Tasked with tracking down coworkers to receive votes, we see how anxious this makes her.
Shielded by a comfortable life, she is now pushed to take charge. In one scene she has a co-worker talk to the bosses, being too afraid to stand up for herself. Having to speak to co-workers in person and over the phone is no small task. A rare depiction of social anxiety in film – Sandra is relatable because she’s so average. Some of the co-workers refuse to talk her in person, turning her down over the phone. It becomes clear they are not completely to blame; for their houses are falling apart and everyone is in need of money.
Never rushing into plot or emotional contrivances, it all leads to a powerful ending. Adding up everything that happened before – it triggers a hundred conflicting emotions. These filmmakers combine life and film techniques in such innovative ways. In the tradition of ordinary life dramas (common in Japanese cinema); it immerses the viewer in a regular life. Cotillard gives an incredible performance without ‘acting’ in the traditional sense. You’d think her beauty would seem out of place within such normality, but she works it completely without strain.
This is a movie about a woman trying to fight for her life and job. The struggle to emerge out of the comfortable daze we all fall into, and to begin feeling happy and alive again. Its topic is fiery and honest – describing a time where good jobs are scarce and wealth is favored over the well-being of others. There is a tinge of hope to it all; Sandra emerges with control of her life. With social difficulties becoming ever more common – this is a powerful and relevant social statement.
(4 out of 4 stars)
(Released: December 5, 2014)