“I don’t want the kids to see me crying.”
‘Two Days, One Night’, directed by the Dardenne brothers in 2014, is a Belgian movie starring Marion Cotillard. Cotillard plays Sandra, a worker at a solar-panel factory who suffers from depression and has been forced to take time off work. Whilst she is absent, her fellow employees are given the choice between taking their annual bonus or foregoing it to keep her employed. After they are intimidated by the foreman they vote in favour of the bonus, but a second vote is allows and Sandra has a weekend to talk with all fifteen of them to try to persuade them to change their minds. The film is a series of encounters between Sandra and her fellow workers, intercut with the effects of the encounters on her mental health and on her relationship with her husband and children. Her quest for votes is an uncomfortable one as she battles with feelings of insecurity and an aversion to being seen as a charity case. The reactions of the employees are dramatically varied from those who support her to those to violently take against her. Each person who is shown siding with the foreman has their own reason for wanting the extra money occasionally as good as Sandra’s need for keeping her job. There is a feeling of desperation, and this is enhanced by the two directors’ characteristic style: hand held cameras, naturalistic performances and no extra-diegetic music. It’s a sombre movie with few moments of levity, what makes it great is the repetition of Sandra’s petitioning and the different responses she receives – in this way you feel like the Dardenne brothers are scraping back the surface of the reality of life of the edge of poverty and exposing a strata of different issues and anxieties.
Would I recommend it? Yes – taken with other films by the same directors (for example ‘Rosetta’ and ‘The Kid with a Bike’) you get a sense of their mission to expose and analyse major social issues facing modern Europeans. I’d suggest a double bill with ‘Bicycle Thieves’ for a similarly realist movie about a person desperate for work.