Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Two Days, One Night (orig. Deux Jours, Une Nuit) [2014]

MPAA (PG-13)  ChiTrib (3.5 Stars) (2.5 Stars)  AVClub (A)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
Allociné.fr listing*

AV Club (A.A. Dowd) review (T. Gauthier) review* (J. Kábrt) review*
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (N. Klinger) review* (R. Mowe) review (A. Schwartz) review* (G.L. / O.S.) review
L'Express (E. Libiot) review (C. Lemire) review
Slant Magazine (E. Gonzalez) review
Variety (S. Foundas) review

Two Days, One Night (orig. Deux Jours, Une Nuit) [2014] [IMDb] []* (written and directed by the Dardenne brothers [en.wikip] Jean-Pierre [IMDb] []* and Luc [IMDb] []*) is a remarkable / critically acclaimed "thriller of the mundane / day-to-day" and is certainly one of the most compellingly constructed stories put on film in 2014.

I say that the current film had to be _one_ of the year's most compellingly constructed stories put on film because 2014 included Boyhood [2014] which having been filmed with the same ensemble-cast over the span of 10 years had to be the year's _most compellingly constructed story_ .

And then during the past several years there have been some other stunning to remarkable "minimalist" tales put on the screen.  One thinks of the British "drive home one night" Locke [2013], the remarkable Paraguayan film 7 Boxes (orig. 7 Cajas) [2012] about the drama that meets a Paraguayan teenager tasked with simply transporting seven boxes from one end of capital Asuncion's central market to the other and Cosmopolis [2012] about a young New York businessman's afternoon limo-drive through traffic "to get a haircut."  And then there's even a recent, simple, yet also award-winning, Iranian film, The Bright of Day (orig. Rooz-e Roshan) [2013] about a school teacher who has a single day to try to find one witness to testify to the innocence of the father of one of her students.  All of these films, including the current one, would make both James Joyce (Ulysses / Finnegan's Wake) and Vittorio de Sica [IMDb] (Ladri di Biciclette [1948] [IMDb]) proud.

So what's _this_ film about?

Late-20 / early-30-something Sandra (played by Marion Cotillard [IMDb] []* in a performance worthy of her Oscar nomination) after having been on sick leave for several months (for depression) finds when she seeks to return to work at a small Belgian solar panel assembly plant that her job has been eliminated.  Her boss has found that the assembly plant can work with just fine with 16 workers rather than 17.  But she needs the job.  So ... he offers her and the other workers a deal: He can rehire her ... or he can pay-out the other sixteen workers their end-of-year bonuses (about $1200 USD each) but not both.  And he gives Sandra the weekend to persuade the other employees to forgo their bonuses so as to take her back.

Wow.  A heartbreaking to impossible task (and remember why she's been on sick leave to begin with -- for depression...).  The other workers, obviously none of them wealthy, count on that end-of-year bonus, some more than others, but forgoing $1200 would be a significant sacrifice for all of them.  Further, the boss has turned Sandra's future employment at the firm into "a charity case."  It's obvious that he believes that her place at the firm would be superfluous.

But what then to do?  Fascinatingly, Sandra's husband Manu (played also magnificently by Fabrizio Rongione [IMDb] []*) urges Sandra to go out during that weekend and talk to each of the 16 co-workers, ONE-BY-ONE, ANYWAY.  Why?  He also must have known that it was a near impossible task to persuade enough of them to go her way.  But he wants her to try.  Again, WHY?

This is where the film becomes interesting and IMHO becomes MUCH MORE than simply a anti-capitalistic setup.  What was Sandra suffering from?  DEPRESSION.  What's the best antidote to DEPRESSION -- GETTING-UP AND GOING OUT INTO THE WORLD EVEN IF ONE THINKS IT'S HOPELESS.

And it turns out that it isn't ENTIRELY HOPELESS anyway.  THERE ARE STILL AND ALWAYS WILL BE (SOME) PEOPLE willing to sacrifice for others (All / most of those co-workers knew what it's like to be unemployed and dreaded being so as well).



* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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