Thursday, December 25, 2014

Movie with Abe: Two Days, One Night

Two Days, One Night
Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Released December 25, 2014

Films that reference time in their titles usually fall into one of three categories: science-fiction tales actually involving time travel of some sort, thrillers involving a ticking clock, and stories that use time strictly as a measure of possibility and are in no rush to race through it. The first category includes examples like “Edge of Tomorrow” and “About Time,” the second brings to mind “Out of Time” and “Nick of Time,” and the third is best illustrated by the acclaimed Romanian film “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.” The Dardenne brothers’ latest film, “Two Days, One Night,” falls distinctly into that third category.

The film opens with Sandra (Marion Cotillard) laying at home in bed, far from eager or ready to get up. A few phone calls and conversations reveal that, after a medical leave, Sandra returned to work to a vote forced upon her coworkers by their boss: to lay her off or to receive their bonuses. Unsurprisingly, the allure of 1000 euros has resulted in her losing the vote. The determination of her friend and coworker Juliette (Catherine Salée) earns her a new vote on Monday morning just moments before the end of the work day on Friday, which gives her the weekend to find each of her coworkers and convince them that her job is worth giving up their bonuses.

What transpires over the next two days is a repetitive sequence of events. Sandra tracks down each coworker, most of whom she does not have a personal relationship with outside of work. Each are surprised at first to see her but immediately realize why she has come. They ask how many have decided to support her and tell her it’s difficult for them to let the bonus go. She tells them that she was not the one who made them choose and that she deserves to have a job just like they deserve to have their bonus. Some respond more optimistically and ultimately opt to vote in her favor, while others are outright angry that she would even come by, but the conversations are largely the same.

Watching the nuanced differences in how each person reacts to Sandra approaching them in their natural habitats and seeing how human instinct kicks in in this kind of scenario is what makes this film and its story worthwhile. It’s difficult to watch Sandra put herself out there, especially because her situation has caused her to lose considerable confidence. Her supportive husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), who works in the kitchen at a chain restaurant, is her biggest cheerleader, but it often seems that he should be the one advocating on her behalf rather than her. Cotillard delivers a strong performance that anchors the film, and the film ends on a note that gives all its events, which play out unextraordinarily as they might in real life, added significance, revealing the more complex layers of a seemingly simple and uncomplicated story.


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