Sandra is a proud, dignified yet broken woman. She hates receiving pity but is forced to rely on the generosity of those she works alongside. Cotillard is an unstoppable actress – even more explosive when making films in her native language. Despite her incomprehensible beauty she gets you to believe she is a minimum wage worker battling mental illness and trying to keep her family afloat. She is remarkable. It is a pleasure to watch her blossom in these 91 minutes. There are several key scenes here that capture the beauty of daily life. Whilst trying to enjoy an ice-cream on a park bench Sandra expresses her desire to be happy and acknowledges the problems in her marriage. One colleague breaks down in front of her, ashamed of his initial choice to take his bonus. Along the way Sandra also faces confrontation; colleagues who see her as a weak link and a liability; an interesting comment on how society treats mental health and psychological illnesses. The majority of the film’s substance is in the responses of those Sandra pleads with. The diversity of their reactions and opinions captures human attitude towards equality, capitalism and survival. The real tragedy here is that most of her co-workers are struggling as much as she is. Their bonuses mean survival and not luxury. Characters are constantly asking each other to “try being in their shoes”. Just like Ricci in The Bicycle Thieves the sad truth of the matter is that securing a job, or stealing back a bike, means passing your suffering onto another stranger to whom the world will turn its back and cross the street to avoid.
Sandra is a mother and wife, fighting with depression and earning the minimum wage at a solar-panel plant. The company she works for wants to lay her off so they present her colleagues with a choice; if they agree to Sandra’s firing, they will each secure a €1000 bonus. Over the course of one weekend, we follow our vulnerable and desperate protagonist as she tracks down each of her colleagues, asking them to vote for her to keep her position. Not much else happens in Two Days, One Night. It is a simplistic plot made up of numerous scenes that unveil human nature in all its cruelty and kindness. It is impossible to watch Two Days, One Night and not see how similar it is, in style, to the European neo-realism films of the 1940s. This is a modern take on De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. When Ricci’s bicycle was stolen, he lost his method of work. Like Ricci, we follow Sandra around a city after her livelihood is snatched from her. Two Days, One Night shares the central themes of De Sica’s momentous social masterpiece; underdogs ruined by strangers, whose triumph relies solely on the assistance of those around them. Yet in its second half, Two Days, One Night draws attention to another reading of these socialist tales – it celebrates the struggle. Ricci’s morals deteriorate when faced with desperation; Sandra grows in her humanity with each visit she makes. Marion Cotillard was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal as Sandra. It was always doubtful she would win. It was one of the strongest categories this year and the Academy aren’t known for embracing world cinema. It’s impossible to put Reese Witherspoon, Julianne Moore, Marion Cotillard, Rosamund Pike and Felicity Jones up against one another. They all deserved to win and nobody deserved to lose. Still, Cotillard’s is the most fragile performance.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.