Two Days, One Night
The very harsh reality of this film is matched by the exhausting and human central character
Belgian born brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have become specialists in French speaking Dramas, with a tendency towards one main character. 2011’s ‘The Kid with a Bike’ was a fantastic encapsulation of a young boy abandoned by his father and his struggles to make sense of the world. The Dardennes are clearly interested in themes of family and the various issues that can arise from this, for example their first real ‘hit’ Rosetta focused on a young girl trying to keep her job whilst living with her alcoholic mother.
Taking the lead this time is Hollywood starlet Marion Coltillard playing Sandra. Having just discovered that her work colleagues are opting for a bonus in exchange for her dismissal, she endeavours over the weekend to ask each of them if they would reconsider.
In the current employment market many films are trying to offer hope and optimism to its viewers, which is all very well but it often feels very fantastical considering how unemployment rates are looking pretty damning. However thankfully the Dardennes have never shied away from real social issues, in fact they tend to chase them down. With this in mind the main character has to carry the whole film as well as the huge burden that she goes through, thankfully Marion Coltillard is excellent. Following a few major Hollywood roles with Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Inception’ in particular, Coltillard has found time to revert back to the indie market. In 2012 she played the tough paraplegic Stephanie in ‘Rust and Bone’ showing just her range of acting, despite what many people might say about her performance as Miranda in Batman’s conclusion. In this particular role as Sandra she manages to match the films exhausting tone, in what is a naturalistic approach causing many to shout “Oscar”.
However that’s not to say this isn’t just a film with one stand out performance, far from it because not only is the plot compelling but a number of supporting roles help raise the tension. Firstly there’s a Dardenne ‘veteran’ in Fabrizio Rongione who plays Sandra’s husband Manu. The character often seems to act as a motivator to Sandra, as to be expected she doesn’t exactly feel too confident about persuading anyone. It’s a nice purposefully underwritten character that ultimately feels real as he shares her grief, which is thankful to the audience because it really is draining. With the nature of the film taking on a two day and wouldn’t you know it one night period the workers appearances vary from hollow to emotional. This aims to bring forward the various moralities in the workplace and also importantly doesn’t always consider those voting against Sandra as enemies.
What encapsulates all these aforementioned qualities is the very subtle direction and cinematography that in parts is beautiful but also withdrawn. It no doubt helps that the Dardenne’s have consistently worked with Alain Marcoen as their cinematographer; this is no doubt excellent for collaboration, whilst Marcoen clearly has a keen eye for exactly what action is most important. Finally to round of this drawn tone, the soundtrack is non-existent meaning we only hear the characters and the surrounding landscape.
For me there’s nothing that can beat a true slow paced drama with very real characters, throw in a tough well written story, superb central acting plus some of that human nature and well you’ve got a gem of a film.
Simply loved it