much for labor solidarity. The workers of Sondra’s local have voted to allow
management to lay her off so they can keep their bonuses. It will be a
devastating blow to her and her family, but that’s her problem, not theirs.
However, she has been granted a second vote, due to the foreman’s improper
attempt to influence the outcome. With the encouragement of her husband Manu and
a supportive workmate, Sondra will fight for her job, practicing retail
politics at its most personal in the Dardenne Brothers’ Two Days, One Night (trailer here), which opens this
Wednesday in New York at the IFC Center.
was already grappling with the debilitating clinical depression that
contributed to her extended sick leave. Obviously, this will not help.
Unfortunately, her time away convinced management they could make do with one
less person and the unseen, barely referenced union agreed. Reportedly, the
foreman told her co-workers management was determined to lay off somebody
regardless of the vote, so they might as well get their bonuses out of the
deal. The truth of that contention is a bit murky.
with this new information, Sondra tries to buck-up and lobby her colleagues to
allow her to stay, despite the very real financial cost they would have to
bear. Thus proceeds a series of incredibly awkward conversations. Some react
with bitter resentment, while others overflow with guilt. Each becomes an
intense one-on-one encounter, but they all essentially start the same way.
Unfortunately, the Dardennes’ naturalist ethos precludes them from
fast-forwarding through Sondra’s familiar expository intros, but at least they
always go someplace uncomfortably honest. In fact, she even learns some of her
co-workers are in an even worse position, due to their abusive home lives and dicey
Two Days is being billed as
the Dardenne Brothers’ first collaboration with a major movie star, which must
be news to Cécile de France, who starred in the Dardennes’ The Kid with a Bike, as well as Eastwood’s Hereafter and scores of high profile French films. Regardless, it
is easy to see why the New York Film Critics Circle named Marion Cotillard best
actress for her work as Sondra. It is a raw, earthy performance that eschews
superficial flash for a deeper, darker means of expression. Sometimes it is
painful to watch her (of course that was true of the ludicrously twitchy Meryl
Streep in Ossage County, but for the
opposite, less edifying reason).
this is Cotillard’s show, but Fabrizio Rongione’s turn as the more stable Manu
also makes quite a quiet impact. In fact, the entire ensemble is remarkably
assured and uncompromisingly convincing, despite their radically differing
levels of professional experience (as per usual in the Dardennes’ films).
Arguably, each confrontation between Sondra and a co-worker could stand alone
as a self-contained film, given the strength of the supporting cast.
Although Belgium selected Two Days as their official Foreign Language Academy Award
submission, it did not make the shortlist. There is always critical favorite
that gets snubbed and ironically this year it is Two Days, a film driven by the process of vote-counting. Although
it is a bit repetitive as a whole, the individual performances and
in-the-moment flashes of truth more than carry the film. Recommended for those
who appreciate social drama and Francophone cinema, Two Days, One Night opens Christmas Eve (12/24) at the IFC Center
in New York.
Labels: Belgian Cinema, Dardenne Brothers, Marion Cotillard