How can such an insanely beautiful woman be such a great actress? I’ve spoken about this before, in regard to the careers of Jennifer Lawrence, the Fanning sisters, Scarlett Johansson, and others, and it’s always fascinating to me to see how these actresses manage their careers. Lawrence and Johansson have taken the very justifiable path of leveraging their roles in Hollywood tentpole franchises, i.e. Hunger Games and X-Men, and Avengers, respectively, in order to maintain their ability to freely take on the more challenging, much lower-paying parts in the dramas, and sometimes comedies, they obviously love. Whereas the Fannings, and here Marion Cotillard, although she has from time to time worked for Christopher Nolan, and will appear in the upcoming Assassin’s Creed, eschew big-budget movies, and still succeed, heartily, in their careers.
As Nathanael West once said, “Only those who still have hope can benefit from tears,” and boy, does Cotillard, looking like a seventeenth century Magdalen, shed the tears in Two Days One Night. As directed by the Belgian Dardenne brothers (Kid With a Bike, Lorna’s Silence, L’Enfant, The Son, Rosetta, La Promesse, all unmissable), the story is a modern parable for our difficult times, especially European times. We are dropped directly into the thick of the plot, with Cotillard’s Sandra having just lost her job in a solar panel manufacturing business, after a bout with depression. The business owner and the scheming foreman have connived to give bonuses to the sixteen other employees, in return for their votes to lay off Sandra. With the help of her friend and fellow employee, she has gained a weekend to convince the majority of the other employees to forego their bonuses and vote her back in by way of a secret ballot, on Monday.
The story proceeds as Sandra makes her way, hesitantly, from employee to employee, with the indefatigable help of her doting husband. The utterly discrete humanity with which she comports herself in these confrontations is startling, and we see the full panoply of human behavior in the responses she receives, from abject apologies to blithe self-centeredness to outright violence, all of them utterly believable. Pay close attention to those who take her side, and you’ll see a palliative to the inferno in which Europe currently finds itself, and therein lies the Dardennes’ pathway, and the film’s ending, to exaltation. Ever the Magdalen. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 8/25/15