Written and directed by the Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, Two Days, One Night is a Belgian drama that stars Marion Cotillard (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) as a worker in a solar panel factory in a French speaking town in Belgium. In the film, Cotillard’s character Sandra, is a young mother and wife who has missed a lot of work due to illness. While she is off recuperating the company she works for realises that they can meet their production quotas with one less worker.
At the start of the film, the owner of the company asks the factory employees to vote on letting Sandra go. The payoff for each worker is a 1,000 Euro per month pay rise. In order to ensure Sandra is fired, the shop-floor foreman tells the voting members that if she is not fired that one of them will be dismissed in her place. Shortly after the young wife and mother learns she has been fired, a co-worker and friend from the factory, Juliette, convinces the owner of the plant to hold another ballot because of the foreman’s interference.
M. Dumont, the solar panel factory owner, tells Sandra on Friday that the upcoming Monday will be when the second voting session takes place. This leaves the woman two days to convince her co-workers to vote in her favor which means that they will lose the extra money. It is money that prompts Sandra’s husband Manu, a local chef, to urge his wife to plead for her job back. He does not make enough money for the two of them, and their children, to maintain their standard of living. He convinces his wife to speak with each person who originally voted for her to be fired in order to change their mind and reject the extra money. This is a difficult task and the film follows her progress.
The Belgian drama shows that the Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard is perfectly capable of playing any role and in Two Days, One Night, she inhabits Sandra completely. The actress who brought the legendary Edith Piaf to life, also brings the beleaguered solar panel worker and mother to fruition. Her character reluctantly approaches each of her co-workers and the audience feels her discomfort at what she sees as “begging” for her job back. Some have compared the film to 12 Angry Men in so much as it deals with one person trying to change the minds of a number of people.
This feels like a bit of a stretch, however, and what the Dardenne brothers have done is broach the question of just how much loyalty one’s fellow workers have for their co-workers when money is added to the equation. Each of the people that Sandra approach initially state that they need the extra Euros that the company has given them. The Dardenne’s specialize in looking at the world of the blue collar worker in Belgium and Cotillard is the biggest actor that the brother’s have worked with to date. Certainly the movie shows a world that may not resonate with the average American but is still an interesting glimpse into another country’s work ethic and social setting.
For those who can cope with a film that relies upon subtitles, Two Days, One Night, is a little film which entertains but does not overly impress. Marion Cotillard imbues her character with enough pathos to make her both a figure of sympathy and a person that the audience gets behind as Sandra struggles to keep her job. This Belgian drama will not appeal to everyone but for those who like a little film that makes them think, it will be a treat. Like most world cinema offerings, this movie is not being shown in major theatre chains and it is currently not available on Amazon.com although it is available for preorder in the United Kingdom.
By Michael Smith