The Belgium born Dardenne brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc are notorious for their realistic, heart-breaking films, and Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night) is no exception.
The film, released last year, follows Sandra (Marion Cotillard), a mother who returns to her factory job after a leave for mental-health, but discovers she is no longer needed. In fact, her coworkers have each been offered a €1,000 bonus to continue covering Sandra’s work. In order to support her family, Sandra sets out for one weekend to speak to each employee and convince them to cede their bonus so she may remain at the factory.
As with all Dardenne features, the cast is comprised of mainly new-comers with an appearance by Olivier Gourmet, a staple of each of the brothers’ films. Unlike the previous movies the Dardennes have created, Deux Jours, Une Nuit, stars an internationally well known leading lady. Cotillard joined the project with an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in the 2007 French film La Vie en Rose. Subsequently, Cotillard nabbed her second Oscar nominee for Best Actress for her role as Sandra.
The film was widely acclaimed, amassing overwhelmingly positive reviews from sources such as BBC and Time Magazine. Adding to its success, Deux Jours, Une Nuit also scored dozens of awards from several associations and festivals, such as the Sydney Film Festival and the Belgian Film Critics Association.
With a simple plot that rests mainly on powerful dialogue spoken entirely in French and Arabic, this film details a story of struggle and survival. Relying heavily on exchanges between Sandra and her equally financially worried coworkers, emotion carries the film.
Cotillard’s Sandra easily could have fallen into the trope of a hopeless woman in distress begging others for help, but that thought was clearly the opposite of what the Dardennes had in mind.
Sandra strongly confronts each of her colleagues with hope to hear their profound tales and predicaments, both heart-wrenching and inspiring, to change their minds. In a capitalist society, many may assume greed plays a huge role in the decisions, but it’s not all dollars and cents. One woman even finds freedom in supporting Sandra, explaining, because of her husband, she had never made a major decision such as that.
Instead, the film is a tribute to the working class and the importance of community support. Of course, it is an emotional decision for the employees to decide what to do when offered their hefty bonuses – use the money they desperately need, or give it up to help a friend.
And despite being set in Belgium and spoken in French, the film translates well for those who are not familiar with either. The anxiety and turmoil ridden story of hope is universal and an important watch for viewers on any part of the globe.