Starring: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salée
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Running Time: 95 mins
Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, une nuit) is a Belgian film about a young mother who has one weekend to convince her work colleagues to help her keep her job, after discovering that they voted on Friday for a pay bonus in exchange for her being laid off.
I was amazed by how intense and engrossing a film as stripped-down as this was. It’s a very quiet film, with little in the way of a score, long sequences where nobody talks, and only real emotional drama, nothing too outlandish. However, its premise is absolutely brilliant, it has a stunning central performance by Marion Cotillard, and it’s just a heart-wrenching depiction of desperation in financial dire straits as well as the heartlessness of those who want more for themselves.
I’ll start with the most striking thing about this film, which is its very quiet and realistic atmosphere. It’s set in a working class area of Liège, but it doesn’t portray the lack of wealth in the area and the characters in a sort of gritty realistic way, rather just shows it on screen without any alterations to the sounds or the imagery, giving it a fantastically tangible and realistic aesthetic that contributes significantly to the very down-to-earth atmosphere of this film.
Also, the way that the story is crafted is ingenious. On paper, seeing a woman walking around Liège for a whole weekend going up to 16 different people to convince them of the same thing sounds pretty dull, however each time that this woman approaches a new colleague, it becomes incredibly tense to watch, because it’s totally unpredictable as to whether they’re going to give up their bonus for her, and how they’re going to be about it, which makes her pleads for their kindness all the more heart-wrenching.
That is also largely helped by the brilliant performance given by Marion Cotillard. She conveys the desperation of this woman on the brink of losing her job with such clear humanity, making her easy to relate to and sympathise with, whilst she also makes the character so genuine that you never feel a sense of pity for her, as she says on screen on numerous occasions, rather you truly want her to get the help for her own sake.
Overall, I thought that this film managed to expertly create a thrilling and massively engrossing story despite its very quiet atmosphere and slow pacing, whilst the central performance and demonstration of pure desperation was absolutely stunning, so that’s why this gets an 8.8 from me.