Cannes 2014: First Look At Two Days, One Night

Dardenne brothers gonna work it out

Cannes 2014: First Look At Two Days, One Night

by Damon Wise |
Published on

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne landed on the Cannes Film Festival’s radar with 1999’s **Rosetta **and haven’t been off it since. In many ways the Belgian brothers are a paradox: they are pure Cannes and at the same time the very antithesis of it, making films that eschew high drama and, until recently, stars, featuring mostly non-professional actors. Following Cécile de France, Marion Cotillard becomes the second big name to work with the Dardennes, but her presence is not distracting at all in a low-key, human film that just may sneak the Palme d’Or simply as a consensus alternative in what looks to be a very divisive year.

**Two Days, One Night **has been described at the Dardennes’ version of a Western, which, as touchpoints go, is clutching at straws. As in all their films, genre is not an option; the only resemblance to a Western is that it features a high-noon style situation, which occurs when low-pay worker Sandra (Cotillard) returns to work after an illness and find that her services are no longer required. To allay fears of mass redundancies, the boss offers Sandra’s co-workers 1,000 euros each. He is firm on the matter but allows Sandra a secret ballot, giving her the weekend to change everyone’s minds and win back her job.

It may sound like a film in which a woman goes around knocking on people’s doors, saying the same thing over and over again... and it is. But fans of the Dardennes know that plot isn’t the be-all and end-all in their movies, and this is no exception. Richly populated by very well drawn minor characters, most of them immigrants or of diverse ethnicity, **Two Days, One Night **is a very precise snapshot of the modern working-class world, not quite in a depression but struggling nonetheless.

Cotillard walks it as Sandra, giving a very restrained and surprisingly credible performance that must oscillate between dignity and desperation, although the Dardennes shine a spotlight on all their characters, giving everyone their space. There’s a slight twist at the end (no, she’s not dead all along), and it doesn’t carry quite the same import as the Dardennes' major works. But for what it is, it is pitch perfect, which is why it very well may win...

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