Saturday, October 4, 2014

Discovering Solidarity

Two Days, One Night (2014) - Dardenne
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Take it as the Dardenne Bros thriller with the time ticking away. They even put human face in that genre. It's Friday. Sandra (Marion Cotillard), a working class mom struggling with depression, is just told that she is getting laid off from a solar panel manufacturing company. The management framed it so that it's either her job or one thousand euro bonuses each for remaining 16 workers. But her two friends at work asked the manager to get another vote to keep her job on Monday. That means she has two days to convince 7 out of 14 co-workers to give up their bonuses and vote to keep her job.

Dardennes puts the dilemma squarely on us. What would we do if we were in Sandra or co-workers shoes? Unsurprisingly in the beginning, Sandra gives up the fight. For her, there is no dignity in begging for her job back. The bonus is a lot of money and she can't blame her co-workers who are pretty much in the same boat as she is: struggling to make ends meet. She just wants to give up and go to sleep. But it is her supportive husband (Fabrizio Rongione) who keeps pushing her to fight. He will help her to gather everyone's address and drive her to each co-worker's house to make her case.

As usual, the set up here is super simple, but it works like gangbusters. Cotillard is amazing, so as every actor in the film. By the end, without ever being didactic, Sandra learns a thing or two about solidarity. For many North Americans who are opposed to any kind of welfare system and firmly believe in pulling-at-your-bootstraps, Deux Jours is a terrible movie and Sandra a horrible character. It's definitely not a kumbaya kind of movie but I thought singing Van Morrison's Gloria with a newly converted to her cause co-worker in the car was a bit too much.

Two Days, One Night plays part of NYFF 2014 on 10/5, 10/6. Please visit FSLC website.

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