Two Days, One Night, directed by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
Two Days, One Night opens with the abrupt awakening of Sandra, as she learns her dismissal on the phone. About to return to work after suffering from a depression, Sandra discovers that, as a result of cost cutting measures, her colleagues at the factory have chosen to keep their bonuses rather than maintain her position. After managing to convince her employer to reorganise the vote, she strives for one weekend to convince her colleagues to let her stay.
Two Days, One Night is a powerful drama which explores human motivations with truth and compassion. Filmed like a documentary, the movie closely follows Sandra as she speaks to each of her colleagues in turn. Instead of becoming repetitive, the movie gains in depth as her conversations explore the social and moral corners of the factory’s cruel dilemma with a maintained sense of tension. The reasons behind each person’s choice are discussed or suggested without being judged. The movie’s exploration then becomes a wider reflection on responsibility, in particular on our conflicting duties to ourselves and our families on one hand, and to other people more widely on the other. It also serves as a strong reminder of some of the injustices underlying our current societies.
Marion Cotillard’s performance is particularly moving throughout the movie, as she expresses her distress physically and immediately. The camera reveals her smiles and tears simply and with care, or stays with attention on the contact of her hand with another. She appears exposed and vulnerable, like a singer of fado who abandons all accompaniment to sing her sorrow in solitude before a varying audience.
Sandra is short for Alexandra, a name which, in Ancient Greek, stands for “protector of man”. The Dardenne brothers’s art consists in exposing all of Sandra’s vulnerability to better show what she ultimately upholds and defends, both for herself and for others.
In like fashion, Two Days, One Night is subdued yet heroic: it treads lucidly into the dusk of human dilemmas and failings to reveal, through the night, the progressive reawakening of a deepened sense of resilience and dignity.
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