Two Days, One Night holds remarkable emotional weight with minimal effort.
When Two Days, One Night begins, a lot of the action that drives the plot has already taken place before the credits roll.
Sandra, an employee at a solar-panel production company is a mother of two small children living in a modest flat in the French suburban-side. The film quickly reveals that Sandra has just returned to work after a sixth month depression-fueled sabbatical. After coping with her mental health, Sandra returns to find out that the owner of the company has proposed a raise to all employees so long as Sandra’s position is cut entirely. Sandra is given the weekend to fight for her position with the company by pleading with the coworkers individually.
This remarkably simple set-up really sets into play some fascinating moral decisions for Sandra and her co-workers. Essentially knocking on door to door, the film tackles a traditional dog-eat-dog mentality from both sides, ranging from those sympathetic with Sandra’s cause to those angered she would try to take their money away.
This idea of self-sacrifice for a moral greater good is by no means new to the silver screen, but Two Days, One Night makes it as relatable as possible. Sandra has a lot to lose with her job extermination, but so do the other parents, spouses, and children that make up her coworkers. The film is careful never to make the “right decision” the obvious one.
Marion Cotillard’s depiction of Sandra is entirely worthy of the Oscar nomination, and if you deem the award winner the actress whom is the most convincing and surefooted in their role, it’s hard to argue against her. Sandra is remarkably nuanced, balancing a tightrope of mental strength and deterioration as precariously as an actual stunt-woman, constantly failing to hold up a mask on her feelings despite all strong willed attempts.
The realism of Cotillard’s remarkably life-like depiction is counter balanced by a perfectly staged camera. With no soundtrack to help drive tension and pace, director Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne rely heavily on the attitude of the wandering camera to carry its share of the weight. The camera’s movement closely emulates an action style, often following directly onto where the scene is unfolding, allowing Cotillard’s body movements and facial expressions to convey beautifully layered emotions flawlessly.
Stacked against other Oscar picks which aim to heighten the emotion of real life scenarios, it’s refreshing to see Two Days, One Night fire on all cylinders without brooding scores or sweeping cameras, simply unfolding and letting you do the rewarding mental work yourself.