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'Two Days, One Night' review: Marion Cotillard's portrayal of a Belgian working woman is real yet empathetic

'Two Days, One Night' review: Marion Cotillard's portrayal of a Belgian working woman is real yet empathetic

The decision to cast the French actress Marion Cotillard was a great one and it is proved by her subtle and magnificent performance.

Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Actors: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione

Language: French (Deux jour, une nuit)

It is the first time Derdenne brothers have taken an A-list star to play the lead in their movie. The decision to cast the French actress Marion Cotillard was a great one and it is proved by her subtle and magnificent performance.

In the film Sandra who, after a nervous breakdown, is about to resume her job, finds out that her bosses, during her medical leave, have made other team members cast a vote to decide between giving everybody a raise or retaining her. Sandra with her friend convinces the management for a re-vote citing the voters were initially under the influences of another colleague. Sandra has only the weekend now to convince her co-workers to vote for her to keep her job, provide for her children and share the house mortgage payment with her husband. Some of them tell her that they too were in the same financial situation and needed the 1000 euro bonus. Others avoid her. And the rest few support her and say that they would vote so she can keep her job.

This happens over the weekend hence the name 'Two days, One Night'. The title signifies the time of struggle she has to put up with. Cotillard with her great skill has captured the desperation of a person fighting against her fate perfectly. She has to meet sixteen people over the weekend and every time she meets a new person she explains why she was bothering them their weekend. The repetition of the same dialogue, with little variation, increases the effect and shows how she has to go through her humiliation and shame over and over again. One of the high points of her acting is when she goes to meet her co-worker who had been regretting voting against her. Both of them break down and hug and he promises to vote for her. Cotillard walks away smiling alone, she has tears in her eyes and her expression that of a person whose shaken determination is established again.

The supporting cast of the film is just as good as the lead actress. The Italian actor Fabrizio Rongione, who plays Cotillard's husband Manu, shows through his portrayal how advanced a stage men in the west are when it comes to the concept of feminism. He is a supporting and loving husband who drives his wife to all her co-worker's places and waits patiently in the car as his wife negotiates with her colleagues. The film has very little music, another element in the Derdenne brothers' films. The background sounds are that of the road traffic, footsteps, kitchen sounds and sometimes the hollow silence which retains you in the very real plot and situation that's the film's subject.

Another great thing about the film is how Cotillard, who is also known to people as the brand ambassador of Dior, looks like a plain working class woman and not like a film star who has been dressed down for the part. This film about a person fighting for her job trying all the while trying to keep her dignity intact is hard hitting and yet sympathetic. It can well be called a classic drama of the working life.

Rating: 4 stars
first published:February 20, 2015, 15:34 IST