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Review: Two Days, One Night

One great thing about The Dardennes Brothers latest film Two Days, One Night is the performance of their star, Marion Cotillard. Typically, a Dardennes film is without high-profile actors, and taking on Cotillard must have been a huge risk for Luc and Jean-Pierre. Would an audience be able to imagine the ravishing Parisian Cotillard as a Belgian factory worker suffering from depression?

Fortunately, for anyone planning to see Two Days, One Night, there is no need to worry about deviating from the Dardennes formula, as Cotillard is not only believable, but she is transcendent, in an earthy way. In a year that saw her veer sharply in another direction in James Grey’s The Immigrant, Cotillard proves to be extremely deserving of her Academy Award nomination as she is just as strong here as a heroine of the working poor.

Two great things about the film created by this pair is the look and feel of the film. Summer in Belgium looks to be absolutely resplendent, and the film effortlessly captures that endless summer feeling of warmth, which provides a surprising amount of levity in the tale of the oft mundane. The naturalness here works to perfection, as the sounds of summertime inform the film. With the birds singing, and the heat of of the sun crackling, the choice to forego using a musical score adds a layer of intimacy.

This decision proves especially correct in scenes of Cotillard refusing to leave her bedroom, always tired, providing a marked contrast to the sun-drenched outdoor stretches. Furthermore, for the reserved Sandra able to only express the depth of her condition by belting out music in the car, including Van Morrison’s version of the song Gloria, which fits brilliantly. Two Days, One Night is a film best appreciated on deep reflection, in order to filly understand the subtleties that the Dardennes offer as amuse bouches. An impatient audience will lack the wherewithal to digest some of the joys that the film presents.

One less-than-great thing about Two Days, One Night, despite all of the wondrous tastes on offer, (and interestingly, Sandra and her husband are always eating in the film, perhaps to mark the passage of time), is that it’s at times remarkably slow. The dilemma is that Sandra is placed in a position that her colleagues must choose between keeping her job and giving themselves a bonus. The film is essentially about the power of lobbying, as Sandra, and sometimes her husband go from co-worker to co-worker, campaigning and sometimes begging them to keep her on, so that she is not forced to go on the dole.

The shots of Sandra approaching fellow workers is done so many times, and while the results are often different, (and this must be done before a Monday vote, hence the Two Days, One Night of the title), the (in)action just seems to go on endlessly in a reasonably short movie, to the point that the experience sometimes feels like it is almost the titular length of time.

Despite the leisurely pace, the ending of Two Days, One Night hits hard, and the film becomes difficult for which to walk away, without feeling like something has changed positively.

[star v=35]