NZIFF Review - Two Days, One Night
The little mouse begins to roar in this take on redundancy in the Dardenne brothers' latest socially aware outing.
Marion Cotillard is Sandra, a worker due back after a prolonged illness, but who finds herself facing the life on the dole after the mainly faceless bosses force her co-workers to vote on her future.
The choice? A 1000 Euro bonus or Sandra to keep her job. The first ballot has gone against our downtrodden heroine, but thanks to a friend, a second ballot has been forced on a Monday morning. So, Sandra has two days to convince her co-workers to vote for her future by visiting them one by one and trying to persuade them.
So, the clock is ticking...
Two Days, One Night has a quiet power, largely thanks to the restrained and moving performance of Cotillard. With an ethos that "I don't exist", Sandra is the human face of a corporate by-product, a soldier of a social situation. But, as she gets knocked down, she gets up again with a frailty that makes you wonder how much more she can take in this take on the old quest movie.
While some of the encounters could feel a little forced as she pleads her case, everyone has their reasons for voting for the bonus - from just scraping by and staving off the demons to indulging in luxuries like a patio installation. There's no judgement placed on any of these reasons and that gives some of the power to the performance and the aching to the desperation that Sandra feels as she claws at the possibility of self-respect and self worth.
With a supportive yet insistent hubbie, Sandra's journey is more than about saving her job. It's also about regaining her own self and sense of worth in a world that's cruel and sees those struggling forced to make decisions that seem cruel and unusual punishment.
So it's sad to report that a final dramatic twist when all hope appears lost and the self-medicating Sandra is at rock bottom is a jump too far thanks to how quickly it's resolved. It's the one dramatic bum note that's sounded in this tale of a broken and beaten woman.
Final questions about how nefarious the boss has been are left unresolved and the largely faceless enemy appears too late in the piece and could provoke further debate, but Sandra's arc is the main raison d'être here.
Quietly moving, Two Days, One Night is a testament to Cotillard's screen presence and The Dardennes' prowess in tackling social reality in an unassuming and disarming way.