“A film that manages to whisper and scream at the same time”
Star – Marion Cotillard
Genre – World Cinema > Drama
Run Time – 95 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – Belgium
Oscars – 1 nomination
Awards – 38 Wins & 47 Nominations
Amazon – £5.00 DVD £8.99 Blue Ray
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One of the biggest gripes from Brexiteers was (and still is) uncontrolled immigration. Not so much the color and habits of Johnny Foreigner but the fact a relentless tide of new workers were arriving to every town and city in Great Britain and driving down wages, pay & conditions and putting huge pressures on public services and housing. Capitalism loves everyone at each others throats and doesn’t care of we can’t afford to live or not. It’s at its most profitable then. Tony Blair didn’t open the door wide to give Polish people a better life. He opened the door to give the bosses an even better life. The people have every right to blame overrun hospitals and sky high rents and zero hour’s contracts on immigration, the tension and narrative of this powerful drama from Belgium. Without the numbers you simply would not have those pressures, and that, ultimately, is why we voted Brexit.
Belgium film Two Days and One Night is a parable on working–class life and to deliver that we are in the presence of Marion Cotillard, Europe’s hottest actress right now. Cotillard earned her second Oscar nomination for this movie, having previously won for La Vie en Rose (2007) and she became the only actor to score multiple Oscar nominations for foreign language films without having these films nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. That is the sign of a great talent, an actress making the movie rather than the movie success making the actress win. Cotillard is also the only actor to be nominated for an Oscar for a Belgian film. Belgium finally has something famous.
This is the sixth film by the Dardenne brothers to be nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, but for the first time one of their films left Cannes empty-handed. The brothers are very politically inclined in their films and so loved on the South Coast of France as they love to explore themes of poverty and capitalism, in all manner of its forms. I have scene three of those films and they are all different and not the polemics you would expect. Their message is subtle and smart.
Marion Cotillard ... Sandra
Fabrizio Rongione ... Manu
Catherine Salée ... Juliette
Batiste Sornin ... M. Dumont (as Baptiste Sornin)
Pili Groyne ... Estelle
Simon Caudry ... Maxime
Lara Persain ... Femme de Willy
Alain Eloy ... Willy
Myriem Akheddiou ... Mireille
Fabienne Sciascia ... Nadine
Anette Niro ... Nanna
In Seraing, a nondescript industrial town near Liège, Belgium, Sandra (Cotillard) is a young wife and mother, who works in a small solar-panel factory. She has recently taken time off work after suffering a nervous breakdown as we pick up her life with husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) taking the kids to school but still plenty of tears. In this moment of weakness she is vulnerable in other ways and during her work absence, her colleagues realize they are able to cover her shifts by working slightly longer hours and the management proposes a €1,000 bonus to all staff if they agree to make Sandra redundant. They also get the overtime and so a no brainer.
Sandra: I wish that was me.
Sandra: That bird singing...
Sandra is aware of this on her return to work when it’s announced a vote will take place on this very issue. Her 16 co-workers will raise hands on her fete - keep the bonus or forgo it and save Sandra. It’s brutal capitalism at play. Unfortunately for her she loses the vote as one colleague, Willy (Alain Eloy), spreads dirt and untruths to secure his bonus and so theirs. Sandra and her workmate plea for the vote to be redone on learning this and stop the boss as he is leaving for home on a Friday night. He reluctantly agrees and a secret ballot will be held on Monday. Sandra has all weekend to change the voter’s minds. But she is just getting over her nervous condition and very panicky on the task ahead. Manu pleas for her to fight for her job as the family need the money. Unemployment is as high as 25% in these parts.
The plan is to visit each of them over the next two days and one night to persuade them to reject the bonus. She quickly learns that most of the co-workers need the bonus just as much as she does for their own families and Sandra faces an uphill battle. She will need at least nine votes and her nerves are frayed form the increasing indignity, hostility and stress of the situation for both her and her workmates.
Sandra: Everytime I feel like a beggar, a thief coming to take their money. They look at me, ready to hit me. I feel like I'm hitting them too.
Most women are anxiety ridden insecure warriors deep down as they try to be mums, workers, lovers and fighters, putting extra strain on relationships and their general wellbeing. If we are honest most women were designed to be mums at home with their kids but torn as they are pressured to work and feel guilty if they don’t. Cotillard is brilliant at highlighting that internal and external struggle that you have to be all those pieces as women today to hold it all together or you may well crack. I didn’t know this when I was young and as you get older you realize how fragile we all are. Life is a struggle.
For all that this film is Ok and nothing more and all about Cotillard’s performance. She has the grace and stature of a supermodel on screen and coldly attractive but has some serious acting chops. I wouldn’t say it was an Oscar winning performance (it wasn’t and she lost out to Julianne Moore for Still Alice) and the film gets a bit repetitive as she knocks on those 16 doors and tries to persuade her various workmates of different gender, sexuality, race and situation to back her. The directors made up the scenario of voting to sack a worker for the bonus but would not surprise me if it’s something we will see in the future the way things are going as unions are destroyed and workers undermined by the Tories.
The film is a clever dissection of the pressures of being working-class and not just about her jeopardy over her job and shows how money, or lack of it, destroys relationships. We both have to work now and so the man no longer the bread winner and so responsibility for money now shared. It’s a big strain on women and they are beginning to die younger. Cotillard nails that conflict in her performance and you just want someone to give her a cuddle as her pill popping replaces her husbands reassuring cuddles. As one critic said - ‘its Cotillard's emotional accessibility that turns this drama and character study into a quiet thriller’.
It cost €3m Euros to make and did €8 m back, the Dardenne brother’s most successful film to date. As far as a viewing experience their films are different and an acquired low budget taste as they refuse to stray from their nondescript suburbs and political messages. I enjoyed it to a point but only really watched it because it popped up on Film4 but I would recommend it, if just for the fact that it is a film that understands women. The actors are too clean and cute to convince as poor people though and that the films major flaw as not one single swear word in the film. The working classes I know swear, drink and smoke 24/7. Hey, maybe Belgium does have an upside after all?
Imdb.com – 7.5/10.0 (35,324votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 97% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – % critic’s approval
Chicago Reader –‘In film after film the Dardennes have proven themselves the cinema's most acute humanist critics of predatory capitalism; this masterful drama finds them at the top of their game’.
Washington Post –‘As a parable on karma, capitalism and Darwinian corporate politics, "Two Days, One Night" can often feel brutal. As a testament to connection, service, sacrifice and self-worth, it's a soaring, heart-rending hymn’.
The Film Stage –‘What separates Two Days, One Night from just another tale of a poor woman in desperate need is that the Dardennes have also, rather subtly, rendered a stunning portrait of marriage on the brink’.
NZ Herald –‘[Cotillard is] the beating heart of a film that manages to whisper and scream at the same time’.
Los Angeles –‘The Dardennes take us into the ecosystem of need. By the time they are through, they've cut a wide swath that covers most of the issues of the working class’.
Sacramento –‘It is Cotillard's emotional accessibility that turns this drama and character study into a quiet thriller’.
Seattle Weekly –‘That's what is so devastating about this superb film: We might have Sandra's dilemma as the focus of our attention, but every one of these people has a comparable story. In these circumstances, that realization is heartbreaking’.