Two Days, One Night, film review: Marion Cotillard earns the Dardennes' vote

(15) Dir. Jean-Pierre + Luc Dardenne; Starring Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, 95mins

Sandra (Marion Cotillard) worked in a solar-panel manufacturing company in an industrial Belgian town before having to take time off due to depression.

Upon declaring herself fit to work again, she finds that her 16 co-workers have been offered a €1,000 bonus on the condition of voting to make her position redundant. She has the weekend of the title in which to chase around town, visit them at their homes and implore them to vote against their own financial interests in order to save her job.

The Dardenne brothers' latest social-realist drama only has a simple story, then, but it is about a lot of things, and perfectly made to a human scale. It is about miserable labour relations, as well as the stress that financial worry puts on Sandra's marriage. Stress that also causes her to consume Xanax at a worrying rate over the course of the weekend, and the drama to steadily build with each encounter.

Everyone in this film is in an unenvious position, and her co-workers react with sympathetic tears, hard-hearted violence and everything in between. You can't tell, beforehand, which way it's gong to go. All this for a job Sandra probably won't much enjoy going back to even if she is given the chance.

Cotillard's performance as this variously vulnerable and defiant but quite ordinary cinematic heroine is unshowy and beautifully judged. The film-making is similarly controlled; compassionate and angry without editorialising; unrushed while making sure that every moment counts.

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