ByJames McDonald, writer at
James is a Movie Critic and Celebrity Interviewer with over 30 years of experience as an Award-Winning Filmmaker.
James McDonald

Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.

Marion Cotillard is that very rare actress who embodies the everywoman. She can appear in multi million dollar movies like “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises”, starring alongside mega superstars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale but she will always be the one you end up watching. She can then turn around and make a low budget indie movie like “Two Days, One Night”, where she is the star and only then do you realize just how seamless she makes the art of acting appear.

With “Two Days, One Night,” Ms. Cotillard plays Sandra, a woman who after taking medical leave to deal with her depression is told that she will not be returning to work. Come to find out that her foreman Jean-Marc (Olivier Gourmet), gave her sixteen co-workers a choice: a bonus of €1,000 each or Sandra returning to work but not both. Over the weekend, Sandra and her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), track down each co-worker in the hopes of changing their minds.

Initially afraid to contact any of them for fear of being pitied, with Manu’s unwavering support, she gradually begins to reach out to them and asks for their support and informs them that a new secret ballot will be held first thing Monday morning and if the majority rule in her favor, she won’t lose her job but €1,000 is a lot of money and trying to get them to relinquish it, is going to be a difficult undertaking. Watching her approach each house or apartment is agonizing and distressing.

No matter who she speaks to, they all start off by saying that the money would be utilized to help their own families and while they feel sorry for her and her situation, they can’t part with their reward. Initially, she tells them that she understands their predicament but with every person she contacts, she gets stronger within herself and then asks them to put themselves in her position, that of a mother with a husband and two young children to support.

Ms. Cotillard is such a terrific performer that you can feel every single emotion and nuance as she makes her rounds but also her grit and determination as some say they’ll give up their bonus in order for her to keep her job. Directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne put you right in the middle of every gut-wrenching scenario by letting the camera linger on whatever is happening onscreen without cutting away, thereby giving the effect of real life and not a scripted or staged production.

The entire cast are solid in their respective roles but Ms. Cotillard is a revelation. Even in small, almost insignificant scenes, her performance is exceptional and it helps move the story forward. There is no big secret reveal at the end, just a finale that seems totally believable and realistic for this given situation. “Two Days, One Night” is a superb performance-driven drama that is highly recommended.

In select theaters now

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