The film industry today often gives off the message that bigger is better. Movie trailers bombard us with action–packed fight sequences, over–the–top special effects and flashy shots of Hollywood’s A–list actors. While I enjoy the latest blockbuster as much as the next person, one often yearns for something more simplistic. The Dardenne Brothers’ French drama “Two Days, One Night” offers a refreshingly simple yet moving experience.
The film centers on Sandra, a mother and wife coming back to her factory job after undergoing a nervous breakdown. However, upon Sandra’s return to work, her cruel manager offers each of her coworkers a €1,000 bonus in exchange for firing Sandra. Over the course of one weekend, Sandra undergoes an emotional journey as she tries to convince her fellow 16 employees to vote the following Monday to let her stay.
Marion Cottilard delivers a powerful performance as Sandra, as viewers witness her struggle to convince not only her coworkers but also herself of her strength, while coping with her depression and anxiety. The usually glamorous actress is anything but in this role, using subtle changes in her physical expression to reflect Sandra’s growing desperation. The film’s close–up, often silent shots cause the audience to feel as though they too are traveling door to door with Sandra, painfully trying to hold it together as their fate rests in the hands of others.
While some of her coworkers willingly sacrifice their bonuses for Sandra, others are not as generous—for selfish reasons, but also sometimes for needs as great as Sandra’s. However, the significance of the film comes not from whether or not Sandra succeeds in her efforts, but her mere decision to try. In choosing whether or not to carry on with her attempt, Sandra must also learn to appreciate her own value as a person. Through what appears to be a straightforward plotline, the film raises an important question of how we learn to accept ourselves and carry on even in the face of adversity.
Check out what else we saw at the Philly Film Festival!