Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit)
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After her Oscar win for 2007’s La Vie en Rose, French actress Marion Cotillard made a smooth transition into big Hollywood blockbusters. But while many actors make the switch without looking back, Cotillard continues to build her career on two continents, most recently receiving award season buzz for her starring role in Two Days, One Night.

Two Days, One Night (or, in French, Deux Jours, Une Nuit) tells the story of Sandra (Cotillard), a young wife and mother of two whose ongoing battle with depression takes a major hit when she discovers that her coworkers have voted to have her fired in exchange for substantial bonuses. Sandra’s family desperately needs the second paycheck—and she feels that she’s finally able to return to work. So after a friend convinces their boss to allow a second vote, Sandra spends the weekend visiting her coworkers, trying to convince them to give up their bonuses to save her job.

This Belgian drama marks yet another noteworthy performance for Cotillard, who runs her character through the full gamut of emotions. Still struggling with her own personal issues, Sandra is forced to put her family first—setting aside her deepening depression in order to try to hold onto the job that they need to pay the bills. At times, she gives into her own feelings of helplessness, wanting nothing more than to give up the fight and lock herself away in the darkness of her room. At other times, however, she gathers up her strength and confidence, striding to the next address on her list to argue her case to another coworker. For Sandra, it’s a weekend full of highs and lows—of strengths and weaknesses. And, for Cotillard, it’s an emotional obstacle course that she completes with impressive agility.

Meanwhile, the story is more than just emotional; it’s also suspenseful. As Sandra goes from house to house, she and her husband keep score, celebrating each accomplishment and suffering through each refusal—yet the outcome remains uncertain until the final vote is cast.

Sometimes, though, one aspect of a film can be so frustrating that it detracts from almost everything else. In the case of Two Days, One Night, it’s the story’s difficult setup. Many viewers—especially, perhaps, North American viewers—might find it hard to sit by and watch Sandra simply trying to get everything to work out in her favor instead of battling the injustice of her boss’s decision. After all, if most of us had a friend in Sandra’s position, we wouldn’t tell her to spend the weekend talking to all of her coworkers and trying to change their minds; we’d tell her to find a good lawyer. She shouldn’t have to pound the pavement, trying to convince people who depend on their wages for survival to sacrifice for her. And, in following along on her journey, you may find yourself more frustrated by the story than outraged by the situation.

As a character study, Two Days, One Night is tense and moving, and its talented star makes it all the more noteworthy. But your enjoyment of the film will depend heavily upon your ability to accept (or perhaps overlook) the story’s shaky foundation.

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