Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Writers: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Stars: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salée
Production: Belgium | France | Italy
It is Friday noon. Sandra discovers that she has been "released" by her duties in her work. Unless she manages to convince her fellow colleagues to give up their annual bonuses, at the end of the weekend she will be dismissed. She has "two days and one night" exactly in order to go on this unusual quest. The results can be destructive or constructive.
But Sandra is not feeling so good. She has been absent from work a couple of days due to "sickness". All this proves to be extremely hard for her. This cruel dilemma that was put upon all workers is causing her extreme stress. To who wouldn't either way? Standing at people's doors and asking for a chance to keep her job feels like begging to her eyes. With the help of her beloved husband she finds slowly the necessary courage to pursue what she deserves.
The Belgian Dardenne brothers, known for their usual Cannes presence, having won two times the Palme d'Or (Rosetta - 1999, L'enfant - 2005) and being nominated a couple of times for it - the same for the Grand Prize of the Jury - , including this year for Deux jours, une nuit (2014), they have shown a consistent line of work that is acclaimed but mostly impressive.
Their cinema is raw and intense. It always focuses on realism and the socially underprivileged. It is not happy or shiny, it is how life is below the surface, where financial struggles and social absence are everyday obstacles. You never see something overdone or over-shown in their films. No extra sentimentalities, no extra drama. You only see how life really is with its passions and defeats.
This nerve-wracking dilemma being put by the boss causes different reactions to people. Some understand, some doubt, others react. It is understandable. What would you do if you were in their position? Would you give up a bonus that would help you pay some extra expenses, would you sacrifice someone's life for that? Maybe there is no need to do that. Maybe you have already decided.
Here, we become witnesses of a society and its broken ethics. Many of those people are also not so privileged, others need the money to get through the year, others to extend their houses. Sandra is kind and submissive. She understands and doesn't put up a fight. Even asking for their vote is already overwhelming for her. But this action, knocking on 10 different people's doors, reveals a full profile of the average modern European. Solidarity is tending to disappear or was it ever there (?) and today's ethics have been shuttered under the enormous burden of the social and financial crisis.
Sandra might be psychologically weak, but she demonstrates a huge capacity of perseverance, even if she needs to be pushed. She takes small steps towards the accomplishment of her difficult task and understands gradually the importance of defeat. There is the necessity to win this fight, but ultimately it means only one thing; it doesn't matter if you lose or win, you have at least tried. And it seems that Sandra has already given up before this journey even begun. Now she is learning the importance of getting through it. And Marion Cotillard keeps proving her vast acting talent. Her vulnerability and strength at the same time are imposing.
Through the unstable movements of the camera, Sandra's unstable state is intensified. However there is no character development. We never learn what happened to cause her anxiety and depression. But this is not important. The Dardenne brothers don't care for that. They care about the decadence of today's world, this moral decay and absence of personal principles we experience today. No judging or blaming, this is left to you to do.