If you had to decide between keeping a fellow co-worker in employment or taking a significant bonus, which would you choose?
This is the ethical dilemma that forms the premise of the Dardennes brothers most recent offering; Two Days, One Night or Deux Jours, Une Nuit, in which Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is facing unemployment from her menial job at a Solar Panel factory unless she can convince her co-workers to vote otherwise.
The film commences with Sandra being told over the phone that following a staff vote, she is being let go. After suffering a bout of severe depression and having to take sick leave, the company foreman realises the job that is currently being done by 17 staff members can actually be achieved by 16. So he puts the vote to Sandra’s co-workers forcing them to decide between self-gain and solidarity.
Fearing the foreman has utilised scare tactics to get people’s votes against her, Sandra manages to convince her boss to hold the vote again, but by secret ballot. She then effectively has two days and one night to confront all of her co-workers individually and ask them to choose her instead of the bonus.
Not exactly tantalising subject matter. However, despite the tedious nature of her task, I did not feel the need to look at my watch, fidget or yawn once. In Two Days, One Night the Dardennes brothers have taken a very simple ethical dilemma and presented it in a very real and delicate manner, in which you truly feel the desperation of Sandra. Where you feel the darkness that she is suffering. Where you understand the cold despair of thinking you are completely and utterly alone.
While the film does not hit any great heights, Cotillard plays the role of Sandra with a quiet desperation that cannot be overlooked. Sandra faces all of the doubts and insecurities that anyone put in her position would be forced to face. There is a ghastly indignity in having to confront all of your co-workers and beg them to save you. But with the encouragement and support of her loving husband and a strong desire to overcome her illness, Sandra struggles through and overcomes her self-doubt, her feeling of being invisible.
This is a simple film with a strong message. It’s the story of one woman’s battle not only with her employer but also with her inner demons. It is about her struggle to be seen, to be significant, to be counted. And while the outcome may not be what the audience expects, this is a story of courage, recovery and rebirth.
If you’ve ever thought about giving up, if you’ve wondered why you even tried, if life has kicked you in the teeth, then this movie will resonate with you.
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