Sabin wrote:It seems as though Marion Cotillard will be winning Best Actress.
Unless the Dardennes win a third Palme -- the rules still preclude a second award to the Palme winner.
Apropos of which the Dardennes reviews:
Chief Film Critic
Chief Film Critic @foundasonfilm
As much as she stood out from the crowd in her Oscar-winning turn as Edith Piaf, that’s how much Marion Cotillard blends into the unfettered working-class environs of “Two Days, One Night,” a typically superb social drama from directors Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. Rich in the Dardennes’ favored themes of work, family and the value of money, and infused with the suspense of a ticking-clock thriller, “Two Days” may be dismissed by some as more of the same from the Belgian siblings who rarely stray far from the industrial port town of Seraing. Yet within their circumscribed world, the Dardennes once again find a richness of human experience that dwarfs most movies made on an epic canvas. Cotillard’s presence will assure the widest exposure to date of any Dardenne effort, particularly in the U.S., where IFC will distribute later this year.
Always masters of narrative economy, the Dardennes kick off “Two Days” with a ringing phone that brings Cotillard’s Sandra the news that her job at a local solar-panel factory is due to be eliminated as part of a downsizing initiative. The decision was made by a vote of Sandra’s 16 co-workers, who were forced to choose between saving her job or their own €1,000 annual bonuses. Only two voted in Sandra’s favor. Now her only recourse is to organize a second vote by secret ballot and hope for a different outcome. It is already Friday afternoon, and Sandra has until Monday morning to rally the seven additional votes she needs.
The Sandra we meet in these early scenes is a woman visibly on the edge. She, her kitchen-worker husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) and their two children have only recently climbed their way out of public housing and off welfare, and the loss of Sandra’s job will surely set them back. What’s more, Sandra is at the end of her recovery from a bout of depression that has kept her away from work for an unspecified period of time — a fact used as ammunition by the factory foreman, Jean-Marc, who looms for most of “Two Days” as Sandra’s unseen antagonist.
Norma Rae she isn’t, just as the film is anything but a heavy-handed “issue” movie, right up to a deftly orchestrated conclusion that manages to affirm the Dardennes’ fundamental belief in the goodness of people while suggesting that the struggle of the working class is never over. Indeed, Sandra doesn’t want to start a workers’ revolt but rather to maintain the status quo, and as she journeys door-to-door to seek her colleagues’ help, her argument is simple: “Don’t pity me. Just put yourself in my shoes.”
The responses run the gamut from the cruel to the compassionate, from those who won’t even give Sandra the time of day to those who beg her forgiveness and cry on her shoulder. At every step, the Dardennes, who patently refuse to pass moral judgments on their characters, evoke Jean Renoir’s famous maxim that “Everyone has his reasons.” One says he needs the bonus in order to pay for his daughter’s tuition; another that she’d love to help but has recently left her husband and so money is tight; still another that she’s building a new patio out back. And some say yes, of course, we’ll vote for you.
Although Sandra isn’t slowly being poisoned to death like the doomed protagonist of the noir classic “D.O.A.” or facing a looming gunfight in the center of town like the beleaguered sheriff of “High Noon,” the Dardennes couch her struggle in the same desperate, high-stakes terms, and the closer Monday morning comes, the thicker the movie’s air grows with a queasy anxiety. As it was in the similarly nail-biting “The Son” and “L’Enfant,” that mood is inexorably enhanced by the Dardennes’ favored shooting style of long handheld tracking shots in which the camera hovers relentlessly around the main character as though attached by a tether.
In most Dardenne films, those roles have been played by Bressonian nonprofessionals or local character actors (like the excellent Rongione, who made his debut in “Rosetta” and has since made four additional films for the brothers) whose unfamiliarity to the audience made them that much more credible as ordinary working stiffs. But Cotillard, who is only the second established star the Dardennes have cast (after Cecile De France in their previous “The Kid with a Bike”), disappears so fully into Sandra that she becomes inseparable from the rest of the company.
Outfitted in jeans and a series of brightly colored tank tops, her matted hair pulled back with a scrunchie, the actress is onscreen in every scene of “Two Days,” and yet the role never feels remotely like a star turn as she hustles to and fro, pleading her case, her wide, expressive eyes registering every quicksilver flash of doubt, fear and self-loathing. Cotillard plays Sandra as a woman who has always struggled to feel that her life has value, and little by little over the course of the “Two Days, One Night,” in the most remarkably subtle of ways, she shows her coming into a new sense of self.
Pic benefits greatly from the expert lensing of regular Dardenne d.p. Alain Marcoen, the crisp editing of Marie-Helene Dozo, and the lived-in production designs of Igor Gabriel. After experimenting with brief snatches of classical music as underscore in both “Lorna’s Silence” and “The Kid with a Bike,” the brothers return to a music-free milieu here, save for Petula Clark’s 1970 hit “La nuit n’en finit plus” emanating from a radio and, in one joyous scene, Van Morrison’s “Gloria.”
by David Rooney
The Bottom Line
Specialists in unvarnished intimacy, the Dardenne brothers add another clear-eyed contemplation of stark social reality to their impressive output.
CANNES – The injustices of the workplace and the basic but tenuous dignity of being able to earn a living have been frequent themes in the films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, going back to their early breakthroughs with The Promise and Rosetta. Their latest affecting drama, Two Days, One Night, chronicles the weekend-long crusade of a working-class woman, played with piercing emotional transparency by Marion Cotillard, to reverse a decision regarding the termination of her employment. Once again, it's enriched by signature qualities – the humanistic, nonjudgmental gaze, the absence of sentimentality, the ultra-naturalistic style – that have always distinguished the Belgian brothers' fine body of work.
Even before the global economic meltdown of the past several years, and the ubiquitous rise of such corporate practices as self- and co-worker evaluations, staggered layoffs and contract buyouts, French-language cinema has long focused on the cancerous impact of that business culture on individuals and families. Laurent Cantet's ironically titled 1999 debut, Human Resources, is an obvious example.
Sandra (Cotillard) has been pushed out of her job working for a small solar panel company following a vote in which fellow employees were given a choice between her redundancy or their 1,000 euro bonuses. Recently recovered from a bout of depression that kept her off work, Sandra's impulse is to crawl back into bed with a Xanax. But her loving husband Manu (Dardennes regular Fabrizio Rongione) urges her to fight to keep her job.
Initially, Sandra is too defeated to speak up for herself, but her colleague and friend Juliette (Catherine Salee) catches the firm's manager (Baptiste Sornin) on Friday afternoon, persuading him to revisit the issue in a silent ballot on Monday morning. With 14 out of her 16 co-workers having voted against her, that leaves Sandra two days to track down their addresses, visit them at their homes and persuade at least seven more to forego their bonuses and vote in her favor, securing the majority she needs in order to remain employed.
Less out of pride than her own battered self-belief, Sandra refuses to plead or seek pity. She says little of the difficulty of raising her two kids (Pili Groyne, Simon Caudry) on her husband's wage as a cook, or of the likelihood of having to move the family back into welfare housing. Instead she simply presents her case, appealing to her colleagues' sense of decency and pointing out the unfairness of the firm's foreman (Olivier Gourmet, another Dardennes favorite) making their decision into an either/or proposal.
Editor Marie-Helen Dozo uses the repetitive aspect of these visits to instill a gentle but urgent rhythm in the superbly modulated story.
While the setup might seem the basis for a look at people's venal natures, and their inability to think beyond personal gain, the Dardennes are unfailingly compassionate filmmakers. In casual observations full of small but telling details, we see one person after another engaged in his or her own struggle, many of them in immigrant families, working two jobs or with spouses on unemployment. The ones who either refuse to hear Sandra out or react with hostility are the minority, outweighed by those to whom 1,000 euros makes a difference too great to ignore. It's a quiet but wrenching portrayal of no-frills lives.
However, like shafts of sunlight on a gray day, each small triumph illuminates the film with hope. In the most beautiful scene, Sandra approaches a young father (Timur Magomedgadzhiev) while he's coaching a junior soccer team. Having been helped by her when he was new to the job, his shame after voting against her is devastating. Another lovely exchange occurs in a laundromat with a short-term contract worker (Serge Koto).
There are also deeply moving moments involving Anne (Christelle Cornil), who is sympathetic but under the thumb of her husband. An interlude in which Anne, Manu and Sandra – all rock fans – sing along to "Gloria" by Van Morrison's band Them on the car radio provides a liberating reprieve from worry, and from the inexorable approach of Monday morning.
While some may take issue with Sandra's drastic action at a certain point when the odds against her appear impossible, the scene and her behavior throughout are validated by absolute psychological and emotional integrity. And the way in which the Dardennes, as well as Manu, simply put the incident behind them and move on, feels entirely true to the characters.
Likewise, some might quibble that Manu is an idealization of the supportive spouse, tirelessly and selflessly bolstering Sandra's fragile resolve. But on the contrary, his behavior – and Rongione's emotional honesty as an actor – makes this a tender yet matter-of-fact depiction of the dynamic in relationships where managing clinical depression requires constant vigilance.
By Lee Marshall
Dirs/scr: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Belgium-France-Italy. 2014. 94mins
The impossible choices forced on workers by downsizing, flexible contracts and the declining power of the unions are thrown into stark relief in the Dardennes brothers’ latest film. While it may lack the breathless dramatic energy of earlier works like La Promesse or L’Enfant, this is still a powerful, finely scripted issue movie, made all the more incisive by Marion Cotillard’s raw performance as a woman fighting to save her job while suffering from depression.
The story of a woman forced to canvas her fellow workers to persuade them to give up a bonus payment in order for her to keep her job is one that you can imagine Ken Loach taking on, but the undogmatic, compassionate focus on the lives of Marion and those she meets builds a nuanced portrait of a struggling community that is classic Dardennes. Cotillard, the recessionary topicality of the theme and the dramatic efficiency of a film that takes its time to bite, but never lets go when it does, will send Two Days off on a multi-date world tour, perhaps stirring even more interest than the brothers’ last outing, The Kid On The Bike.
The first shot of Cotillard’s character Sandra speaks volumes about who she is and how she is. She’s wearing a cheap, bright, department-store singlet, hair scrunched up in a sporty ponytail, but her face tells a different story. She’s suffering from depression, and through the course of the film will pop far more Xanax than is good for her.
As if her illness wasn’t enough, Sandra has just been laid off by a small solar energy firm, following a ballot of colleagues who were told that if they voted for her to stay in her job, it would mean forfeiting their thousand-euro bonuses. However, late on Friday, the boss tells her he has no objections to a second, secret ballot being held on Monday morning before work. If Sandra can talk her workmates into voting to lose their bonuses, he’ll keep her on.
It’s like Twelve Angry Men in the workplace – except there are sixteen of them, with only two voting in her favour in the first ballot. So with the help of her supportive husband Manu (Rongione), who fights throughout to keep her from sinking into self-loathing and giving it all up as pointless, Sandra sets out to visit her colleagues one by one in the lower-middle class suburbs of some unnamed Belgian town over the course of a sunny weekend.
The script takes its time to raise the dramatic temperature, adding brushstrokes to the portrait of a woman whose fight with the black dog of depression turns every difficult house call into a mountain peak. She’s alternately buoyed by fragile hope and slapped down by despair as colleagues are either won round or refuse to back her – some for financial reasons, others because they see this colleague who has only just returned to work after time off for illness as a weak link who can easily be sacrificed.
Shot mostly by day, in stark and sometimes mocking summer sunlight, Two Days, One Night refuses to divide the ayes and nays into goodies and baddies. The simple choice between ‘Sandra’ and ‘bonus’ – as written on the final ballot paper – may be an unlikely scenario, but the Dardennes suggest that it’s one that many workers are forced to make in a less direct way. But this layered film is more than one long ethical debate. Sandra’s door-to-door mission also enables the directors to touch on issues of immigration, integration and a cash-strapped blue-collar existence that pans out between low-cost diners (like the one where Manu works), mini-markets and launderettes.
Even gender issues are nicely nailed: male colleagues are out of the house when she calls far more often than female ones, and marriages are tested, in one case dramatically, in a film that is political in the original sense of the word: it’s about people, and the fact that no man, or family, or company, or country, is an island.