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  Two Days, One Night Cry For Help
Year: 2014
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Stars: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salée, Batiste Sornin, Pili Groyne, Simon Caudry, Lara Persain, Alain Eloy, Myriem Akkediou, Fabienne Sciascia, Anette Niro, Rania Mellouli, Christelle Delbrouck, Timur Magomedgadzhiev, Olivier Gourmet
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sandra Bya (Marion Cotillard) suffers from depression, but recently has felt able to cope with it thanks to the support of her family and friends and the medication she takes, so she can still hold down a job to provide for herself. Or at least that's what she thought, but now while she is at home having a lie down as she waits for her baking to be cooked in the oven she receives a phone call from her pal and workmate Juliette (Catherine Salée) to inform her there was a ballot which has voted her out of that job, and this is enough to push Sandra over the edge. She breaks down and just wants to retire to bed, but when her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) arrives back he is determined she doesn't allow this to happen without a fight...

The directing and writing team of the Dardenne Brothers enjoyed the highest profile work of their careers once they decided to cast a genuine movie star in Two Days, One Night, or Deux Jours, Une Nuit as it was named in their native Belgium. Marion Cotillard was that star, one of the most famous French actresses of her generation, if not the most, which could have seemed like stunt casting, a real celebrity deigning to take a role in a low budget arthouse film from a pair of talents who were unlikely to direct anything close to a blockbuster. Yet all who saw it recognised Cotillard had not achieved this status by accident, and this proved her abilities as she conveyed the troubled inner life of her character with a raw emotion and physical transformation to thin, drawn and painfully stressed.

Not that she was histrionic, far from it as the Dardennes were careful to keep her grounded in reality even if the premise was somewhat developed in a movie style, inspired by Henry Fonda's dilemma in classic Hollywood drama 12 Angry Men. What Sandra must do is try to persuade her co-workers that she is worth keeping on at her job, which is complicated when their bosses give them a choice: either she keeps her post, or they get their thousand euro bonus, they cannot have both. Although this sounds like an outrageous practice for any company to make, the directors averred that they had based this in reality having heard about similar borderline illegal business schemes designed to keep profits higher and the workers in line.

That could have made this a very angry film, and you do feel resentment towards the largely unseen Jean-Marc (Olivier Gourmet) who we hear has been intimidating the co-workers to vote against Sandra, leading many to wonder why he couldn't be sacked instead? But the onus is on her shoulders as she is persuaded by her husband to contact each of the colleagues in turn and try to convince them she is worth keeping on, which as you can imagine puts her in such a difficult position that it does her self-esteem no good whatsoever, it's already unsteady but the problem of whether she believes herself of real worth keeps arising, and it affects her badly as she cannot accept in her heart of hearts that she is valuable enough as a human being.

Certainly she could be accused of emotional blackmail, and she is all too aware of that, not simply because there are some disgruntled employees who need the money desperately in the current financial climate, some more vocal about voting for the bonus than others. Yet as Juliette has asked the boss to have a fairer, secret ballot on Monday, Sandra has the whole weekend to bring her plight to bear on the people who have a chance to save her from destitution, not to mention her husband and two kids. The Dardennes claimed this was a film about finding solidarity in the modern workplace where there seems to be a distinct lack of it, and it was true Sandra does rally a number of folks who are sympathetic, but that does not admit there were the opposite who would elect to keep the money, and that this whole affair has created a rift between the company and society's neediest workers. This results in mixed feelings once it has reached its conclusion; undeniably moving scenes, but a lot was purposefully, painfully awkward, even excruciating in places. Food for thought, undoubtedly.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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