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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews Two Days, One Night

August 20th, 2014 by Conor ONeill Comments

Two Days, One Night (15)
Deux jours, une nuit (original title)
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione & Pili Groyne
Running time: 95 min

If you’re into your hard-as-nails movies with a tragedy induced and simple plot, this may be the movie of the month for you. Directed by Jean-Pierre and brother in crime Luc Dardenne (Rosetta, The Kid with the Bike), this sub-titled French language flick has a lot to say and they say it with grace, a tight and far from verbose script, clever directing and editing and as you will hopefully see, a gorgeous piece of acting from a cast lead by Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises, The Immigrant).

Cotillard’s character, Sandra, fresh from a nervous breakdown, has doubts about her marital situation, two kids to look after, a mortgage and battling an ever increasing downward spiral of addiction to Xanax also has another problem, namely her job. Absent due to her illness, her bosses have discovered that her 16 fellow employees can manage quite well without her and with the carrot of a 1,000 Euro bonus hanging in front of their noses, her companions opt to vote against Sandra’s return to the factory. After begging her boss for another secret ballot deciding her fate, she, her friend Juliette and her long-suffering, yet caring to an almost impossible degree, hubby Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) have literally two days and one night to cajole and beg her former colleagues into changing their collective mind.

The movie starts with pace and barely lets it up for the one-and-a-half hour running time. Usually a movie with such pace has a foot-to-the-board script to rely upon, but here the Dardennes have employed quick over-the-shoulder camera shots, with the lens rarely hanging on one image longer than required to carry the intent. Another choice of note is the lack of panoramic cityscapes or pan-outs. Everything is about bringing the viewer into Sandra’s hellish race to get to her 16 former co-workers before the yet to be seen Jean Marc – a ‘yes man’ to the company’s desire for the bonus scheme. Scouring the streets and districts of this imagined French city – imagine that, a French flick without one image of the Eiffel Tower! – Sandra’s attempts to meet the 16 are hampered by the fact that the two days and one night occur over the weekend when the rest of the company seem to be fixing their cars, going to the laundrette, kids’ football training and getting on with life.

Met with pity, contempt, street fights, no answers, half-baked promises, domestic violence and her own harrowing addiction to deal with, this post 2008 crash of the Eurozone could be set in any country, not only in Europe, but hell, anywhere in the world. From urban high-rises to the half built estates which hold so much resonance with the people of this country as the arse fell out of the building market, Sandra has had enough. Something had to give and our hero lays down totally beaten.

Resurrection is brief, and Northern Irish music aficionados will take great pleasure that in possibly the only overtly ecstatic scene of the movie’s centres round the tones of Gloria by Van the Man. Another scene of note is a solemn little moment in the city centre park where Sandra and Manu are having a quiet moment and a bird starts to sing. The ending is as tense as the proceeding 80 minutes but with a delightful little twist, the viewer is left speechless for a few minutes after.

4 out of 5 Nerds

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Conor O'Neill is at times a playwright and a qualified journalist. He has worked for the Belfast Telegraph, Portadown Times and South Belfast Advertiser. He also contributes to various online e-zines, specialising in theatre, gig reviews and other cultural events. If you were to ask him what he does, he will say 'I'm functioning'... that's a lie. Best suited to pressure and deadlines, O'Neill thrives on the moment, the passion and the thrill of now, he's only happy when he's watching or reviewing a play.