Here we are on the last day of The Girl Week Blogathon. Once again, we bring back the wonderful Marion Cotillard. Thanks to all who have participated. Later in the day, another post will go up showing all of your contributions. Let's get through this one, shall we?
Directed by Luc and Jean-Piere Dardenne.
2014. Rated PG-13, 95 minutes.
Sandra (Cotillard) suffers from severe depression and is on sick leave from work because of it. Just as she’s about to return, she gets what might be the worst call imaginable. Not only is she being fired, but she finds out that it was up to a vote by her fellow employees. They had two options: receive a bonus, or let Sandra keep her job and no one gets a bonus. Of the sixteen this question was asked, only two voted to let Sandra stay on. She finds out this bit of info from Juliette (???), one of the two. Juliette takes Sandra up to the company, finds the foreman, and pleads for Sandra’s job back. He says he can’t do that, but is open to having another vote on Monday. It’s Friday, after everyone else has already left for the weekend. When she lets her husband Manu (???) know what has happened, he hatches a plan. With Juliette’s help, they will get the address to each and every person they work with, go see them personally, and try to convince them to change their vote when Monday rolls around. Reluctantly, but realizing her family needs an additional income to her husband’s to make it, she agrees. Sandra tracking down her possibly former co-workers over the course of the weekend ensues.
Watching this woman go from house to house, tracking down people and confronting them about a decision they made that will deeply affect her life is inherently sad. She tells us before she even starts the process that she would rather not because it will make her feel and appear like a beggar. However, at Manu’s urging, and for their son, she soldiers on. Through yet another magnificent performance from Marion Cotillard, we understand that we are watching a woman on the verge of being irreparably broken. Her edges are frayed and her seams are showing, but she’s fighting mightily to hold it all together. Occasionally, her fabric tears a little more and through the holes we see that much more of her soul. Everything about what is happening on this particular weekend is wreaking havoc on her. She’s in a catch-22 she can’t seem to break away from. Her natural decency and compassion for her fellow humans puts her there. She is a selfless doing forcing herself to do something selfish, but for selfless reasons.
Despite Cotillard’s stunning portrayal, I really had a hard time sitting through this one. The problem isn’t that it’s a bad movie, because it’s not; far from it. The issue is that it’s a film filled with people I wanted to punch square in the mouth. I’d love to start with the people that run the company where she’s trying to keep her job. What kind of executives leave it up to their employees to make such important decisions? Not only is this decision incredibly important to the direction of the company, but letting the worker bees make it shows tremendous cowardice on the part of management. As for the workers, sigh. I fully understand how powerful money is. Still, I hope that if I ever find myself in shoes my co-workers wouldn’t be shoving me out the door. However, these aren’t the only guilty parties. I aslo wasn’t a fan of Manu, either. It’s his idea to go see all these people, which is okay, if a bit stalker-ish. My problem is that he made her talk to all of them alone. I get that part of the time, he had to work. However, later on Saturday and all day Sunday, when things were really taking their toll on her, he kept shoving her out the car to go talk to some person about giving up part of their livelihood while he chilled and listen to some tunes on the radio. Dude, at least get out of the car. Show her some support, or at least protection. I mean, you are sending her to beg people to give money away.
Something else kept occurring that repeatedly took me out of the movie. This might be a cultural thing, but bothered me to no end. People Sandra didn’t know were just way too free with the whereabouts of their loved ones to a stranger. On several occasions, she showed up at some person’s house looking for them only to get the spouse. Every time, they gladly told her exactly where to find this person whom they’ve likely never met before. In one case, the spouse even lets their child accompany her. Sorry, but that shit ain’t happening in my neck of the woods. Let some strange woman come up to my house looking for me. I can promise you, Mrs. Dell isn’t going to tell her where I am and most certainly wouldn’t send any of our children with her. There would also be a lengthy inquiry on precisely what our relationship was, probably a death threat or two mixed in. It all struck me as a bit odd, awfully naïve, and way too trusting.
With all that going on, I can’t say Two Days, One Night is all that great. I enjoyed it, but it was almost solely because of the work done by its lead actress. Marion Cotillard felt all alone, both as a character, and as an actress, in trying to convey whatever power the film was trying to get across. She does it all with a performance that's vulnerable and fragile, yet eventually, empowering. With a lesser performer in the role, this probably would fall apart. As it is, the film manages to accomplish a lot. There are some fascinating depictions of depression, as well as the raging debate over doing what’s best for yourself versus looking out for the greater good. All told, we get a film that ends probably as it should, but not how we would like, and makes that work. Any and all of parts that do work do so on the winds of her sails. Rather than sinking into the quicksand of melodrama never more than a heartbeat away, she drags a fairly skeletal screenplay beyond mere respectability, and right into being downright compelling theater.