Two Days, One Night is about tough times and choices in a 21st century France and Marion Cotillard’s tense dramatic performance as Sandra, a woman who was recently fired from her job after a worker-wide ballot vote at a small manufacturing company. The two options on the ballot were either fire Sandra or receive a 1000 euros bonus. Suffering from severe clinical depression, Sandra attempts to convince her colleagues to vote for her to stay in a revote after she and her friend discover that her boss manipulated people to vote against her.
The film is very French indeed, but not in the romantic Parisian way. Instead it is rooted in cinematic realism and contemporary French leftist politics because what Sandra is essentially asking is that her fellow workers give up a potentially life changing sum of money (some need it for decoration, sending kids through university, moving homes etc) in favour of solidarity. The events of the film only really take part on the outskirts of the city; we never go into the centre. Geographically then, as well as thematically, the film deals with people on the edge of urban ‘civilised’ society but still they are affected by the city’s modern fascination and dependency on money as opposed to community values and social capital. Sandra certainly feels guilty about “taking their bonus away” but there is more at stake here than people’s bonus’ (and her job). To reflect the bleak realism there is no extra-diegetic use of music and only one use of diegetic music. The general silence in the film reflects the sombre tone, atmosphere and atmosphere.
Perhaps what the film is ‘really’ about however is Sandra and her depression. It isn’t just glossy cinematic unhappiness; she mopes around the house claiming how she should just give up and how nobody –even her husband – likes her. She frequently takes Xanax as a reaction to all the stress and so on. Despite all this however, she soldiers on and goes around nearly everybody in something that resembles an almost mythic structure as she recites her reasons for starting up a conversation again and again. It almost becomes her mantra, her little speech that keeps her going as the prospect of keeping her job is only thing that stops her just giving up. She trudges around these different but often similar encounters – which for some may become tiring – wearing brightly colour vest tops that are subtly juxtaposed against her not-so-colourful mood. All of this is powerfully captured by Marion Cotillard as her performance is every bit as nuanced as this difficult part demands. Two Days is worth seeing if only for her magnificent performance, easily the best I’ve seen all year as Cotillard proves once again (how often does she have to prove it?) that she is a wonderful talent. Think that’s enough superlatives for now.