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Sunday, October 5, 2014


Marion Cotillard in TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT
Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects
2014, 95 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic elements

Review by Joshua Handler

Every few years, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne create a new film, and that film is usually a masterpiece.  By depicting the lives of the working class with empathy, The Dardennes create films that are unsentimental, yet moving beyond words.  With their latest, Two Days, One Night, which after two viewings I wouldn't hesitate to call a masterwork, The Dardennes have made a film so perceptive and profoundly humane that it's astounding that human beings actually created it.

Two Days, One Night tells the story of Sandra, a depressed working class woman who, over a weekend, must convince her coworkers to vote for her to keep their job instead of taking their bonuses, as their boss forced them put it up to a vote.  This premise initially sounds depressing, but, in reality, this is one of the most uplifting films I've seen all year.

The Dardennes could have played this story as one of huge triumph or failure but instead choose to make this a story about the little triumphs.  Each small personal and professional triumph that Sandra experiences feels more significant than any large one because these small ones are the ones that have a real impact on her life.  The Dardennes are so tuned in to the minute details of everyday life that what is unfolding onscreen feels like a cinematic rendering of something that you might see happening any day.  Two Days, One Night is cinematic in that it is aesthetically pleasing and well-shot, but in all other respects, the events of this film appear to be real life unfolding before a camera.

Though Marion Cotillard is one of the most recognizable stars working today, she effortlessly blends in to The Dardennes' world.  Cotillard sheds her movie star image for one of a humble woman and wrung tears from me without even trying.  She kept me with Sandra every second of the film, almost making my mood rise and fall with hers.  The most minute facial expression speaks volumes with Cotillard.  There are few actresses today who could have achieved this level of brilliance with as much grace, grit, and subtlety as Cotillard.  No amount of writing could ever do this performance justice.

Dardenne regular Fabrizio Rongione is also superb as Manu, Sandra's loving, supportive husband (a rarity in films nowadays).  He and Cotillard have natural chemistry - their scenes together are arguably the most powerful in the entire film.

Overall, Two Days, One Night is a film that restored my faith in cinema (that sounds like an overstatement, but I will publish a piece around its December 24 release detailing why I say this).  Even writing about this film now is giving me goosebumps.  The Dardennes have shown us once again that there is an immense amount of drama that can be found in the mundaneness of everyday life.  The seemingly ordinary is truly extraordinary in their hands.  Two Days, One Night will appeal to just about everyone.  It is impossible to be human and not be moved by a film as wonderful as this one.


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