[TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT opens in Akron on Friday February 20th at the Nightlight Cinema.]
Review by Pamela Zoslov
all of the Dardennes' films, this one is set in Seraing, an industrial
town in the French-speaking region of Belgium. Cotillard plays Sandra, a
young wife and mother who learns that her colleagues at the solar-panel
factory where she works have voted for her to be laid off in favor of
each worker receiving a 1,000-euro bonus. Sandra, nervous and fragile,
has just recovered from a serious bout of depression and was preparing
to return to work. Sandra persuades her supervisor to hold another vote.
Now she has only the weekend (two days, one night) to convince a
majority of her fellow workers to vote for her to keep her job.
by one, she visits her colleagues and recites the same plea: “I need my
job. We need my salary at home. I want to keep my job and stay off the
dole.” Her task is exhausting and humiliating. Several of her workmates
refuse to change their votes, saying they'd like to help but need the
money. The company has created a damnable dilemma between solidarity and
self-interest. Sandra is agonized by having to beg her co-workers for
her job; they are forced to choose between their own needs and her
livelihood. According to the Dardennes, the story was inspired by a
real-life case in France, where a less productive worker was fired so
other employees could get bonuses.
Daunted by the task
and discouraged by the many rejections, Sandra nearly gives up. Her
husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) encourages her to keep going, and she
eventually does convince a number of her colleagues to vote for her.
Despite the ticking-clock tension, the film is ploddingly procedural. As
Sandra knocks on door after door and recites her speech, the film takes
on, as my viewing partner noted, the repetitious quality of a
children's book. “Will you vote for me?” “No.” “Merci, au revoir.” “Au
revoir.” Only minimal background provided about Sandra, whose fate is
nonetheless meant to deeply concern us. Instead of creating a character
for her, the Dardennes linger on Sandra's slumped shoulders and film
every footstep she takes. Judicious editing – omitting, for instance,
Sandra's many walks to the doorsteps of her colleagues — would have
helped the pace considerably.
Its repetitiousness and
occasional missteps (such as a highly unrealistic drug-overdose
episode) are small complaints about a film that, to its credit, explores
issues that seem scarcely to concern many Americans in the 21st century
— the power of union and the oppressiveness of capitalism, which
encourages profit and self-interest above human compassion. 3 out of 4