Marion Cotillard, one of my favourite actresses at present, delivers a sterling performance in this simple but gripping drama. She plays Sandra, a young Belgian mother who discovers her work colleagues are to be forced to vote between keeping their bonus or keeping her on staff. Over the course of a weekend she has to convince her colleagues to side with her – no easy task given that she has just recovering from a bout of chronic depression.
However, Sandra’s task is far from straightforward. In many cases, her colleagues desperately need their bonuses, and have no choice but to reluctantly vote against her out of self-preservation. In spite of this, Sandra manages to persuade some to vote for her, but will she convince enough? Amid the minutiae of Sandra’s conversations, various other tensions boiling beneath the surface sometimes erupt, with the bonus issue proving a catalyst for her ongoing struggles with depression, guilt and marital strife, not to mention her colleague’s fears of what happens if they vote for her (such as contracts not being renewed) and so forth.
Writer/directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are clearly influenced by the social realist cinema of Ken Loach, and as such underpin their screenplay with an enquiry into the darker side of the free market. It isn’t exactly the full Loach (ie all but gunning for a socialist revolt), but it is asking pertinent questions and exposing the price that must be paid for a capitalist society. What makes this so watchable is the way the viewer is continually forced to think about what they would do not just in Sandra’s shoes, but in her colleague’s shoes. There is a neat sting in the tale too, which again provokes much food for thought.
All in all, Two Days, One Night is a very fine piece of work.