Friday, December 19, 2014

Two Days, One Night

Written and directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Deux jours, une nuit (Two Days, One Night) is the story of a woman who is trying to keep her job as she spends the weekend trying to convince various co-workers to forgo their bonuses so she can keep her job following a period of absence due to depression. The film is another tale of the Dardenne Brothers and their outlook into the world of the working class as a woman is trying to get back to work as she learns she could be out of the job because of her absence. Starring Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, and Olivier Gourmet. Deux jours, une nuit is a mesmerizing yet powerful film from the Dardenne Brothers.

After being absent from her work due to depression, a woman learns she has to convince 16 of her co-workers at a factory to forgo their bonuses so she can keep her job. Yet, she faces an uphill battle as she is aware that not everyone can give up their bonuses as she struggles with the idea of losing her job that she needs to support her family. It’s a film that plays into a sense of struggle where this woman, who is a mother of two and a husband who is already working, as she wants to get back to work. For Sandra (Marion Cotillard), she is already teetering on the edge as she is constantly crying as she’s trying not to gain pity for what has happened to her as she meets with her co-workers in convincing them to forgo their bonuses.

While many are sympathetic, some aren’t able to let go of the bonuses as they needed it. The film’s screenplay is aware of the sense of conflict that looms in Sandra as she doesn’t want to gain the ire of her co-workers. Plus, she would question into whether she’s well enough to work due to her struggle with depression. Though she has the full support of her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) who would drive her to the houses during the weekend when he’s not working. She would raise question about their marriage as she starts to unravel as the story progresses yet for those who say yes to her do give her a bit of hope but others are reluctant which she does understand as she admits to doing the same if she was in their shoes.

The direction of the Dardenne Brothers does have an air of simplicity, which is typical of their work, yet is very vibrant in the way it plays into the struggles of a woman during a weekend. Notably as it’s shot entirely on location in the industrial section of Seraing in Liege in Belgium where it is a character in the film. While much of the film is shot with hand-held cameras, there is a smoothness to the way the camera moves in scenes set inside a car as well as in the way the camera moves around in locations in the streets. Even as it is constantly following Sandra as she is trekking from one home to another to talk to co-workers in convincing them to let her keep her job. The sense of intimacy in the Dardenne Brothers’ approach to close-ups and medium shots play into Sandra’s struggle as there’s scenes of her crying as they often keep the camera afar to not get too close.

The direction also plays into how restrained the drama is as there’s very little moments of outbursts and intensity as those moments add to the weight of guilt that looms into Sandra’s already troubled state of mind. Even as she faces rejection where the Dardennes aren’t interested in creating people who are heroes and villains but just people who mean well but have needs. Time also plays an impact to the story as much it is set on two days and one night before the weekend ends where all of Sandra’s co-workers have to vote about keeping their bonuses or have Sandra keep their job as that Monday is the film’s climax. Yet, it’s aftermath is more about what will happen to Sandra and what will happen to her on the next day as it is clear that that the outcome of the vote wouldn’t make anything easier nor happier but it does indicate that Sandra at least did put up a fight to save her livelihood. Overall, the Dardenne Brothers create a rapturous film about a woman struggling to regain her job in the course of a weekend.

Cinematographer Alain Marcoen does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as he maintains a very sunny and colorful look of the locations while keeping things low-key in some of the interiors in Sandra’s home with its natural lighting. Editor Marie-Helene Dozo does brilliant work with the editing as it‘s straightforward with a few jump-cuts to play into the intensity of Sandra‘s struggle. Production designer Igor Gabriel does fantastic work with a few of the set pieces such as the home that Sandra, Manu, and their children live in as it is a very simple home. Costume designer Maira Ramedhan Levi does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual while the pink shirt that Sandra wears is a standout as it plays to its look. Sound editor Benoit De Clerck does terrific work with the sound as it’s very low-key but also very natural for the way things sound on location including the music that is played on the car radio such as Petula Clark and Them.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Batiste Sornin as Sandra’s boss, Simon Caudry and Pili Groyne as Sandra and Manu’s children, Catherine Salee as Sandra’s co-worker and friend Juliette, Christelle Cornill as another co-worker of Sandra in Anne who helps her in the film’s third act, Serge Koto as an immigrant co-worker who is worried about the impact of the vote, and Olivier Gourmet as the factory foreman who is the one that created the decision into whether giving Sandra her job back. Fabrizio Rongione is amazing as Sandra’s husband Manu who tries to help her every way he can as he is aware of her very depressed state and knows that his job isn’t enough to help them financially.

Finally, there’s Marion Cotillard in an absolutely phenomenal performance as Sandra as it’s Cotillard at her most raw where she isn’t being glamorous. Instead, she brings that sense of realism of a woman struggling to keep her job and her sanity as she is also dealing with depression as it’s just mesmerizing to watch as Cotillard brings that weight of despair into one her best performance so far.

Deux jours, une nuit is a tremendously rich and captivating film from Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne that features a radiantly powerful performance from Marion Cotillard. Not only is the film one of their most accessible but also a very universal film that plays into a woman’s struggle to get her job back. Even as she is coping with her own depression as she knows that not everyone is on board to give her job back with very understandable reasons. In the end, Deux jours, une nuit is a truly outstanding film from the Dardenne Brothers.

Dardenne Brothers Films: (Falsch) - (I Think of You) - La Promesse - Rosetta - Le Fils - L'Enfant - Lorna's Silence - The Kid with a Bike

© thevoid99 2014


Brittani Burnham said...

Great review! I'm looking forward to this. Hopefully it comes to Netflix soon. Marion is so talented, I really don't think I've seen her give a bad performance.

thevoid99 said...

Well, it's coming to theaters next month in a limited release for Oscar consideration as I think it's one of the Dardenne Brothers' finest films.

Marion is on a roll. I don't think I've seen her give a bad performance either. She's that good and also so generous when it comes to working with non-professional actors. She is an example of a world-class star who embodies class and grace while having the talent to back it up. She could read a phone book and give a knockout performance.

Alex Withrow said...

Ranks up there with Marion's best work. I adored this movie. One of the best, most captivating (great word to describe the movie), most honest depictions of depression that I've seen.

thevoid99 said...

@Alex Withrow-Marion fucking kicked ass in this film. This is why she is one of the best and it's definitely a honest portrayal on depression as it's stripped down and to the point. No tricks. No attempts to make her ugly. I think the Dardenne Brothers hit gold by getting her and it raises their game.