Two Days, One Night is a muted drama about the personal struggles of one woman with a refined and superior performance from Marion Cotillard.
Two Days, One Night (“Deuz jours, une nuit”) is an emotionally poignant but unobtrusive film in which a woman named Sandra fights for her blue-collar job at a factory.
The film opens on Sandra, played by Marion Cotillard; she looks tired and exhausted, as if she has mentally given up all hope. We find out that she has been on medical leave from work, and right before she is to return to work, is let go. Prior to her return, a mandatory vote was taken at her place of employment: a €1,000 bonus to each employee or keep Sandra. Her friend and co-worker Juliette tells her the foreman swayed the results and her boss allows for a revote on Monday, the problem is it is Friday. Prompted by her husband, one by one she tries to reach out to her co-workers in the hopes she can somehow convince them to surrender their bonuses and allow her to keep her job. With each interaction, we reveal the realities of the struggles in which these characters exist as the poor and working class and reveal Sandra’s own personal struggles and cause for initial medical leave.
Written and directed by Jean- Pierre and Luc Dardenne, also known as the Dardenne brothers, Two Days, One Night is a slow but honest story with a simple plot that revolves around the central character of Sandra as a device to reflect upon ideas of family, economic struggles and depression. Without the incomparable and underutilized Marion Cotillard, this film would be extremely monotonous. But her performance as an emotionally dejected and depressed woman is spot-on in a sincerely authentic manner. Every cell in her body reads and permeates through the screen as a woman who feels worthless, as if she is nothing, and the despair she feels is only a second away from consuming her in entirety. With every person Cotillard interacts with as Sandra, trying to sell herself to earn her job back, another complex but palpable layer of Sandra’s depression is skillfully revealed.
As a film, Two Days, One Night is about as un-Hollywood as you can get. It is very low key, with none of the tricks to garner the attention of the audience. There should be more movies like this available to audiences: quiet movies, character driven films of realism that foster an insight into the worlds in which they take place without dramatic embellishment.