Arts Review, Movies
Awards: Marion Cotillard has already won Best Actress prizes at the European Film Awards and with the critics associations in Boston, Dublin, New York and San Diego. Two Days, One Night won Best Film at the Sydney Film Festival and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes (losing to Winter Sleep) and was the Belgian nominee for the Oscar (but didn’t make the short list).
The Dardenne Brothers have been making great films about the lives and hard times of working class people in Belgium for almost 20 years. They’ve won the Palme d’Or at Cannes twice, for Rosetta in 1999 and L’Enfant in 2005 and are widely recognized for the depth and humanity of their scripts and direction. Their films feel like documentaries but are actually very well structured and tell strong, truthful stories.
Two Days, One Night is a bit of departure because, for once, the Dardennes are employing a major performer, Marion Cotillard, in the lead role. Cotillard is great in the film, however; there isn’t a hint of a movie star in her selfless portrayal of Sandra, an anxious, depressed mother of two, who is urged by her husband Manu and close friend Juliette to fight to save her job after she’s been deemed “redundant” while on sick leave.
The film offers a fascinating look at Belgium, a blue-collar society, trying to deal with hard, economic times. Every time Sandra pushes the doorbell on an apartment or house, you encounter a new story of what life is like for factory workers in another gritty industrial section of Liège. There are new immigrants from Africa and the Middle East and tough Belgians who are fighting hard to keep their lives together. We meet them all, while we see Sandra struggling to keep herself strong enough to keep asking for her job—and her life.
The skinny: This is a strong, compelling story, paced like a thriller. Cotillard is brilliant as Sandra. An excellent film, well worth seeing.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical 96.3 FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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