Two Days, One Night


Brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (The Kid with a Bike, The Son) have built their reputation on a social-conscious body of work which gathered several awards, including two prestigious Palmes d’or at Cannes  – for Rosetta and L’enfant – and their latest entry certainly continues the tradition: Two Days, One Night follows Sandra (Marion CotillardRust & Bone, La Vie en Rose), a young mom who, over a weekend, tries to convince her co-workers to give up their bonuses so she can keep her job.

While the unemployment and blue collar themes are recurring in the Dardennes’ filmography, this movie’s singularity lies in its simplicity as we watch Sandra’s repetitive quest, asking each of 9 co-workers the same question. Based on that premise, you might be entitled to expect a somewhat monotonous work but, to the contrary, I found Two Days, One Night to be a surprisingly intense experience thanks to two strong elements.

First, the Dardennes have an exceptional ability at conveying emotions out of the most basic settings – and by this, I mean they don’t need big melodrama and pompous violins to reach their audience’s heart; rather they use everyday life as their emotional landscape. Just watching Sandra asking these people to give up around $1,300 so she would be kept on board proves to be heart wrenching. You can’t help feeling uncomfortable, almost as if you were in her shoes. The film is particularly vicious – in a positive way – as it also forces you to question what you would do if somebody was coming to you with the same request. You know what’s the right thing to do, but as several characters point out, this is a lot of money:  would you also give it up (especially if you needed it) to somebody you hardly know?

Then, there is Ms. Cotillard’s performance, which is raw and naturalistic. Abandoning her glamour and acting tricks, she bites fearlessly into her role, finding the right note, never overdoing it or showing off for award consideration.

What also makes Two Days, One Night so appealing is the fact that both Sandra and the storyline are able to preserve their dignity, from beginning to end. Without spoiling it for you, I can tell you that it doesn’t end on your typical glorious feel-good note, which makes it even more realistic. As to comparing it to other works by the Dardennes, it is probably not as strong, but mostly because the script is more linear.

Director: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne – Actors: Alain Chabat, Élodie Bouchez – Running Time: 1:35 – Year: 2014 – Country: Belgium, France
Click here to watch the Two Days, One Night trailer
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.