Election campaigning is in full swing, pundits are putting their nightly spin on the politics of the day, and a man named Trump is saying whatever he wants. While political junkies on both sides of the border are soaking in every second of the daily poll results, a different type of campaign is worthy of your attention. In Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night, a young mother of two, Sandra (Marion Cotillard), is forced to hit the streets to rally support for an important cause…her livelihood.
On the rebound after a recent bout of depression, Sandra is devastated to hear that she has been laid off from her job at a local factory. Adding salt to the wound is the fact that her co-workers opted to take a pay bonus in exchange for her dismissal. Urged by her husband, Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), to not go without a fight, Sandra convinces her former boss to hold another vote amongst her peers on Monday. With only the weekend to track down and convince her co-workers as to why they should sacrifice their bonus, Sandra faces an uphill battle that threatens to push her to the brink of a relapse.
While the idea of an organization putting the fate of an employee’s career in the hands of her peers may seem far-fetched in the real world, the film does open up an intriguing examination about human nature. Though the necessity to hunt and gather one’s food has been eliminated in most civilized parts of the world, the survival of the fittest mentality is still alive and well, especially in the realm of business. As most organizations try to instill the “we are all in this together” motto into their workforce, it only takes a firing, or a position to be outsourced, to remind everyone how fragile their roles in the happy corporate family really are.
Two Days, One Night excels in positioning the audience in such a way that they cannot help but contemplate what their own response would be to such a dilemma. As Sandra drudges across town unsure of which co-worker is friend or foe, the viewer also ponders which of their own colleagues would support them? Furthermore, if they had the power to save a co-workers job, over getting a bump in pay, would they?
The Dardenne brothers add a bit of extra tension by highlighting Sandra’s increasingly dangerous reliance on pills. However, it almost feels unnecessary when looking at the film on a whole. The central narrative is more than strong enough to keep the audience engaged. The most captivating moments are not the pill popping, but rather the brief encounters that Sandra has with her co-workers. These scenes provide just enough information as to each person’s financial situation and why they may or may not vote a particular way. Plus, Marion Cotillard’s raw performance effectively conveys how dire the stakes are for her character.
Overcoming its seemingly implausible premise, Two Days, One Night is a heartbreaking film that reminds us that loyalty and friendship only go so far when money and business are involved.
Two Days, One Night is currently streaming on Netflix in Canada, the US and the UK