Two Days, One Night 

Not just one magnificent character study, but a dozen smaller, equally fascinating ones

Two Days, One Night
  • Two Days, One Night

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have carved out a magnificent filmmaking career built on exploring one simple but essential subject: the consequences of and rationalizations for our moral choices. Two Days, One Night continues that pursuit with a film that's not just one magnificent character study, but a dozen smaller, equally fascinating ones.

Marion Cotillard stars as Sandra, a married mother planning to return to work at a solar-panel-manufacturing plant after taking leave to deal with clinical depression. But she learns that the plant is planning to lay her off in a cost-cutting move when co-workers vote to give themselves a year-end bonus rather than preserving her job. Eventually, however, she's able to convince her super-visor for one more chance: A new vote will be taken on the following Monday, giving Sandra the weekend to ask each individual co-worker to give up their bonus so that she can keep her job.

If the premise seems like it would result in a repetitive sequence of scenes, that's part of the point; the arduous process of Sandra making one plea after another, so hard on the heels of such a deep depression, is a key element of the story. Yet, it's also remarkable that the Dardennes invest so much in making each individual response so distinctive, and so understandable. There are no villains among those who can't bring themselves to surrender their extra salary, yet it's still viscerally emotional watching one co-worker break down in shame at having voted against her the first time.

The centerpiece, however, is Cotillard's stunning Oscar-nominated performance as Sandra, which captures the despair of mental illness with wrenching honesty. Cotillard is able to convey the effort involved in simply moving through a regular day, let alone one that requires her to beg for her job. The final moral choice she is forced to make is a unique kind of triumph—yet also perfectly characteristic of the drama the Dardennes always wring out of human frailty.

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT

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Two Days, One Night
Rated PG-13 · 95 minutes · 2014
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
Producer: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Denis Freyd and Delphine Thomson
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salée, Baptiste Sornin, Pili Groyne, Simon Caudry, Alain Eloy, Myriem Akheddiou and Fabienne Sciascia
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What others are saying (6)

Inlander Working for a Living Two Days, One Night puts life on the financial precipice in the spotlight by Josh Kupecki 02/11/2015
Gambit Review: Two Days, One Night Marion Cotillard earns her latest Academy Award nomination in this naturalistic drama by Ken Korman 02/16/2015
Portland Mercury Wild Kindness Marion Cotillard's dark Two Days of the soul. by Megan Burbank 01/28/2015
3 more reviews...
East Bay Express Two Days, One Night Take this job and hang onto it. by Kelly Vance 01/20/2015
New Times San Luis Obispo Review: Two Days, One Night Marion Cotillard earns her latest Academy Award nomination in this naturalistic drama by Ken Korman 02/16/2015
East Bay Express Two Days, One Night by Kelly Vance 01/20/2015

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