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TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT

SYNOPSIS: Sandra (Marion Cotillard), a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.

Review by Louise Keller:
'You mustn't cry,' Marion Cotillard's Sandra tells herself, tears starting to flow, when she hears the news that she has lost her job. The premise of Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne's heartfelt film is simple as it explores basic human emotions and responses to issues of work and survival. Nominated for the Palme D'Or and winner of the Sydney Film Festival Prize in 2014, like their earlier films, the Dardenne brothers concentrate on characters from the working class, enveloping us into the stark but clearly described industrial environment of a small Belgian town. Some may find the journey slight, but there is nothing superficial in the film - from the emotional honesty of Cotillard's performance to the workplace injustice, bullyboy tactics and worker reactions as they are desperate to protect their own income. Despair, pride, self-esteem and fighting for one's rights are some of the emotions and issues canvassed - truthfully and with touching simplicity.

When we meet Sandra, we immediately understand she is a woman on the edge. Her recent depression has left her fragile, insecure and depressed, popping pills and shedding tears at every opportunity. Although her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) is doing his best to prop her us and encourage her to stand on her own two feet and fight for her rights, there is clearly strain between them. Does he feel pity or is it love, she wonders.

Cotillard, who is in every scene, takes us on the journey with her, as she contacts the 16 workers from the factory individually and one by one, asking them to give her their vote in lieu of the 1,000 Euro bonus they have been offered, should she be given the sack. She brings such simplicity to the role and her performance is faultless. The unfairness is obvious and there are poignant exchanges between Sandra and the individual workers that provide insights into Sandra's character as well as that of her work colleagues. Intimidation, fear, self-preservation and being accepted as one of the team are all part of the film's undercurrent.

This is a rich and layered film that deals with the harsh reality of everyday life as it provides an insight into human responses and the resulting divide that circumstances prompt. The Dardenne brothers' achievement is the way they make the ordinary compelling as they invite us to engage with and support Sandra in her quest. There are two days and one night in which Sandra has a chance to fight for rights and self esteem. It may not change the world, but there's a tenderness at the film's core that offers food for thought and a mood tinged with optimism about the world and the people around us.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Maybe I just don't get it, but this multi-awarded film from the celebrated (and Cannes regular) Belgian Dardenne brothers is not only slight - as in, without cinematic scale - it is a bit contrived and tedious. I understand that the plight of a single vulnerable individual in a materialistic society is important and a valid matter of examination. I also understand the film as a metaphor for the world's larger malaise, especially in Europe. But I don't believe the authenticity of the construct, that a small business would put to a vote whether to give 16 of the workers a 1000 Euro bonus - only if they vote to sack worker 17.

From this contrivance flows the film's demise in my eyes, in which a saintly husband and wife plead for the wages mercy of their fellow workers, some of whom grudgingly, other readily, change their minds and their votes.

Sandra (Marion Cotillard) has apparently has just returned to work after an accident and/or a breakdown and she is the least effective in the workforce, but encouraged and supported by her husband (Fabrizio Rongione), she spends the weekend going round to their homes lobbying for her job. This is where it gets repetitious and tedious.

Cotillard is fine though, an exceptionally emotive actress whose inner turmoil is readily visible on her face, in here eyes. But other than a victim figure, we don't see her as a fully rounded character. Nor her husband. Nor anyone else. It's a polemic, perhaps, about the crude workings of the free market where competition forces people to make morally uncomfortable choices. It could have been better told with a better screenplay.

But to finish on a positive note in the film's defence, it was in Official Competition at Cannes and won the Sydney Film Prize at the 2014 Sydney Film Festival.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (M)
(Belgium, 2014)

Deux jours, une nuit

CAST: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Pili Groyne, Simon Caudry, Catherine Sale, Baptiste Sornin, Alain Eloy, Myriem Akheddiou, Fabienne Scascia, Timur MagomedGadzhiev

PRODUCER: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

DIRECTOR: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

SCRIPT: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alain Marcoen

EDITOR: Marie-Hlne Dozo

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Igor Gabriel

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 6, 2014







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