Synopsis: Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.
Stars: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
Running Length: 95 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: The morning that the Oscar nominations were announced, between the throngs of people crying their eyes out over The LEGO Movie being subbed for Best Animated Feature and conspiracy theorists writing manifestos over Selma’s exclusion in several key categories there was a small din over Marion Cotillard scoring her second Oscar nomination for this French language film that hardly anyone had seen. Going into the day, the wise money was on Jennifer Aniston’s worthy turn in Cake to wind up as one of the four women that will lose to Julianne Moore come Oscar night but it just wasn’t Aniston’s year to be called up.
While Two Days, One Night may appear on the surface to be a rather mundane slice of life piece following a central character over a weekend of broken pride and humility, it’s Cotillard’s performance that adds tremendous weight to an otherwise ho-hum viewing experience.
Sandra (Cotillard, The Dark Knight Rises) is a wife and mother coming back from a leave of absence at her blue collar job. Though it’s never clearly stated, depression or another mental illness has sidelined Sandra and right as she’s coming back to work she’s dealt a terrible blow – her employer has given the other members of the workforce a choice: take a pay bonus and Sandra loses her job, or allow Sandra to come back and forfeit the extra money. While this offer sets off so many moral/ethical red flags in the eyes of the viewer, writer/directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne’s screenplay interestingly stays away from asking that outright question to the employer himself.
What we have here is a film that has Cotillard going from co-worker to co-worker reciting nearly the same plea to each one of her colleagues…some who are receptive and some who have already spent the money in their heads and can’t fathom turning that kind of money down. Cotillard’s character, already in a fragile emotional state, has to endure not only gobbling down numerous slices of humble pie but has to appear sympathetic to the rationales of her workmates as to why they won’t vote to keep her.
As has been the case for most of her screen performances (including her devastating Oscar winning turn in La Vie En Rose), Cotillard delivers an unfussy yet deeply complicated character. We don’t necessarily root for Sandra but I found myself waiting for the moment when she breaks apart and loses it on certain individuals who would fancy a new patio instead of letting her keep her job.
In a rather simple conclusion there’s a bevy of complexities, yet it’s a film that leaves you with most questions answered. Is her performance worthy to stand alongside her fellow Oscar nominees? I’d say yes, there’s a lot of work going on here and Cotillard is able to let a wellspring of emotion rumble under the surface in ways few can.