Two Days, One Night is an intimate weekend with Cotillard

admin | 杭州桑拿
7 Jul 2019

Marion Cotillard in Two Days One Night. Photo: Christine PlenusTwo Days One Night.

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (M) ★★★½ Palace Electric

If you like your cinema au natural, the latest offering from multi-award-winning Belgian duo Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne is a subtle treat – an investigation of human values played out over 48 hours as a wife and mother tries to save her job and find her self-confidence.

The Dardenne brothers – who have won the Palme d’Or twice (for Rosetta and The Child) – have established themselves as a force of social realism, their subject matter typically Belgian working-class characters struggling in industrial towns with their situation and/or their personality. Their distinctive style of cinema is dominated by long takes, the use of steadicam or handheld cinematography, jump-cut editing, and no music. All of this puts the pressure on performance, and you can’t get much better than Marion Cotillard playing Sandra, told on Friday afternoon that her colleagues have voted she become redundant so they can have a bonus.

Suffering from anxiety and depression, Sandra collapses with the news until her long-suffering husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) convinces her she should visit all 16 co-workers over the weekend with the aim of overturning the decision at a special vote to be held on Monday. Pumped with antidepressants, she starts the difficult task, only to find that many of those who voted for the bonus need the money as desperately as she needs her job. But on her door-knocking journey, she also finds much humanity – some responding to her cry for help with surprising compassion.

The film won the top prize at this year’s Sydney Film Festival and there is no doubting the powerful simplicity of its central idea and the magnificently nuanced performance from Cotillard. Racked with self-doubt, Sandra finds herself cast as beggar, encroaching on people’s private lives at the weekend. It’s not pity she wants, but some kind of fundamental acceptance from the people she works with – most of whom have their own problems, and all of whom are powerless to push back against the emotionally cruel position the business owners have put them in.

Yet for all its quiet power, there’s repetitiveness about Sandra’s journey that makes this a far less engaging story than their best previous work The Kid with a Bike and The Son. The film seems frequently trapped by its own naturalistic methodology, the Dardenne brothers (who wrote, directed and produced the film) working hard to make every point of view valid, with a consequential diminishing of dramatic power. But like its famous social-realist antecedent Bicycle Thieves, it’s an actor’s piece, the gifted Cotillard in frame from start to finish, with the real drama reflected in her every gesture.

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