“You told people if I wasn’t laid off, they would be.”
Deux Jours, Une Nuit is the first film I’ve seen from the acclaimed Dardenne brothers and I understand now what the fuss is all about. Jean-Pierre and Luc know how to direct authentic movies about real life situations in a very simple manner while at the same time making us think how we would react towards these issues. Deux Jours, Une Nuit is a sociological study we can all relate to during this current economic world crisis. This time the brothers present us a situation where an ill woman is on the edge of losing her job. She has been absent for about four months and on the week she is to start working again her bosses inform her that due to the financial crisis the employees must make the decision of either forfeiting their bonuses or allowing her to be laid off. Only two people voted to save her job, but after discovering that the vote was manipulated by one of the managers, the boss allows for another secret vote to take place after the weekend. This gives Sandra time to visit each of her 16 coworkers and ask them to vote for her, even if it means they lose their bonuses. It is a film focusing on solidarity and what it means to be a good samaritan, and it also plays out as a character study of this depressed woman who is forced to beg for compassion. The film is shot in a very intimate way and at times it can get repetitive because we see Sandra walking on screen a lot and explaining her situation to each one of her coworkers. That repetition might not make for a compelling film, but it succeeds in doing so because we get to experience how tedious and uncomfortable it is for Sandra to ask her coworkers for support. We see the ups and downs she goes through as she receives positive and negative reactions. As an audience we feel that sense of uneasiness as she approaches each individual because we don’t know how each one will react. It is a very uncomfortable film with a strong premise focusing on our humanity and willingness to be helpful towards other even if that means having to sacrifice personal gain. The different reactions of each of the coworkers are completely justified and believable.
The main character in this film is played by the beautiful Marion Cotillard who has slimmed down for her role here. She has been suffering through depression and you can tell by her facial expressions and physical posture. Despite it all she still looks great. The camera follows her around pretty much everywhere wether she is walking to face one of her coworkers or simply going to buy a bottle of water at the market. The film is honest and tries to be as realistic as possible which explains why we go through some of those mundane routines. Cotillard is always compelling to watch nonetheless and despite the repetitive nature of the film we are always uneasy about how each one of her coworkers will respond and how that will affect Cotillard’s character. She gives a powerful performance and deservedly has received a nomination for best female lead performance by the Academy. Her supporting husband is played wonderfully by Fabrizio Rongione who has to always lift her spirits when she feels like giving up. The rest of the supporting players all give believable performances as well, but this is Cotillard’s film and she stands out. The ending is also very powerful and the film leaves you with a lot to think about on our humanity or lack thereof.