Two days and one night made a world of difference for a woman forced to ask 16 co-workers to choose between their bonuses and her retaining her job at a company—not a very nice or fair choice set up by the boss, with a foreman advocating behind the scenes for bonuses. Sandra’s (Marion Cotillard) friend and co-worker takes up for her with the boss after discovering the foreman’s activities, and gets the boss to hold another ballot Monday morning after the weekend. Sandra is also well supported by her husband, Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), who must keep after her to visit each co-worker and try to persuade him/her to vote for her.
This is especially difficult, in that Sandra has been on leave for a depressive episode; i.e., her self-esteem and self-confidence are rather weak. Not only that, but when she begins to visit them, she sees first-hand some of the challenges some of the workers are facing in their personal lives and how her visit can make matters worse. This increases her qualms about pleading with them, and her guilt sometimes overwhelms her.
The Dardenne brothers (writers/directors) are in their element in devising a plot that puts the viewer in an empathic position with each of the players and, thereby, showing all points of view. For instance, many of the workers have obligations and responsibilities for other people; some have their own personality/family issues; and Sandra herself encounters a major dilemma viz a viz her husband, her children, and a certain co-worker. The social value of the film is in prompting every viewer to pose the question of ourselves; would we be willing to give up a handsome bonus to save someone else’s job? During the drama, I was wondering how these extraordinary filmmakers would work their way through to an artistically/humanly satisfactory ending. Needless to say, they succeed.
Cotillard’s performance is up to her usual high standards, and so she captures the fragility, desperation, and vacillations of Sandra’s character. Rongione is exemplary in his portrayal of a spouse who must have endless patience and persistence to support his wife and still keep his own anxieties at bay, because in some ways he is as vulnerable to the job loss as Sandra is.
A film to prick your social conscience.
Grade: A- By Donna R. Copeland