Stars: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione and Catherine Salee.
Writers/Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne.
Deceptively minimalist in its realism as only the cherished Dardennes Brothers can be, Two Days, One Night is, in fact, a soaring study in the fragility and fierceness of the human spirit.
As Sandra, the struggling young mum whose home and livelihood is threatened by heartless corporate cost cutting, Marion Cotillard further strengthens her status as arguably the finest actress working in film today; the Oscar and Cesar overseers agree, nominating her for Lead Actress at this year's ceremonies. Soliciting the pity of all her workmates, several of whom have already voted to have her sacked in favour of a Euro1000 bonus, Cotillard conveys a wave of desperate emotions that have her (and the audience) on the brink of tears from the first frame.
The Dardennes have always brought tremendous insight into the plight of their heroines. From their 1999 breakout hit, Rosetta, to 2011’s festival favourite, The Kid with a Bike, the Belgian brothers have constructed determined and damaged leading lady roles that (they produced Cotillard’s triumphant tearjerker, Rust and Bone, in 2012). They are also filmmakers who stridently refuse to indulge in sentimentality, a narrative avenue that presents itself as an option at several key moments in their latest work but which remains at a directorial arm’s length.
Capturing easily identifiable authenticity in its smallest moments (a shattering stillness at the family dinner table; Sandra’s nonchalant downing of anti-depressants), Two Days, One Night may be the film that most sublimely melds the barebones emotional reality in which their protagonists eek out survival with themes that are both deeply personal yet define our societal existence. It presents the consummate movie actress of her generation stripping bare the vanities of her profession to portray an everywoman hero, gently coaxed to life by filmmakers with a profound grasp of true emotion.