Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione,
Running Time: 1hr 35mins
Plot: Powerful realist drama about a married woman (Cotillard) who attempts to reconnect with society following a bout of severe depression.
Deux jours, une nuit – or Two Days, One Night for a pathetic non-French speaker such as myself – is a profound story about recovery and human struggle, starring a virtually unrecognisable Marion Cotillard in the main role of damaged mother Sandra. Having (sort of) recovered from a borderline suicidal breakdown, wife and mother Sandra (Cotillard) finds that she may be unable to return to work should her colleagues at the solar power plant vote for a salary bonus rather than in favour of keeping her on. Over a single heartbreaking weekend she must try to convince all sixteen of them to choose the latter.
Belgian brothers the Dardennes have made an excellent film that beats out Loach, Linklater and Wheatley in its cerebral sense of realism, swerving every potential pothole of sappy cliché with a beautifully truthful screenplay and startlingly grounded, no-nonsense direction. Their intimate camera craft is worlds away from the Spielbergian wide shots, ultra light juxtapositions, silly-sallying aspect ratios or indulgent indie soundtracks (a couple of car radio tunes aside, there’s no music whatsoever) that have become so familiar in contemporary cinema; against Cotillard’s scintillating turn as the gaunt, troubled Sandra, as well as the eagle eyed casting of a swathe of unknown Belgian faces, visual aids and sad-sap symphonies have no place in Two Days. Her performance runs the full gamut of emotion, from despair to self-loathing to helplessness to humiliation to determination to joy and finally, nearly, happiness. Nothing feels more triumphant than to see this shattered, brave woman with a smile on her face, but, as several of her workmates remind her, Two Days also asks you to ‘see it from the other side’, to comprehend that there are sixteen families perhaps going through similar troubles to Sandra’s own, about which we know nothing.
Since all the dialogue is in French you’ll be reading this film if you go to see it in the UK, but as soothed as you may be by Marion Cotillard and Fabrizio Rongione’s (who plays Sandra’s husband) melodious, naturalistic conversing, you must resist the temptation (I failed) to look away from the subtitles to see if you can work out what they are saying. Like yours truly, all that will probably happen is that you’ll miss out on a line or two, and there is not a word of this daring drama that you will want to miss.