Two Days, One Night Screen 39 articles

Two Days, One Night


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  • The problem isn’t Marion Cotillard... nor is it high expectations, nor even the Dardennes’ tendency to kind of make the same film over and over again for a decade plus now. Simply put, it’s what’s on the screen. Two-time victors in the Age of Frémaux, at this point to not have a film in Competition Jean-Pierre and Luc would have to make—for shame—a documentary, and I’d rather see the Dardennes go back to their roots than watch this film again.

  • Instead of grace arrived through action there is just the strings as everyone else gets reduced to their small parts towards the delivery machine. There is plenty to love here (the husband/wife interactions, the emphasis on process, the raw physical power that their staging finds in some of the confrontations), but the film never avoids its self-defeating nature. A very good bad movie.

  • Not that Two Days, One Night fails to satisfy: it’s as well-crafted and moving as any of the brothers’ works, just maybe a tad more schematic... Cotillard conveys in minimal gestures a powerful sense of someone who believes she’s worthless even as she tries to get her head above water by treating others with the maximum respect.

  • After [The Kid with a Bike] arguably set the stakes a little lower than usual, the compression of "Two Days, One Night" makes for more nervier, more compelling viewing... Yet there's also something exercise-like about this staggered, short-cut narrative that, however enjoyable, isn't entirely authentic, while the film's politics are liberally jerry-rigged in a way that their more organic studies of the institutional indignities visited upon Belgium's less privileged classes rarely need to be.

  • “Two Days, One Night” has much to recommend it, including an expressive, exact sense of time and place and the way the Dardennes transform politics — in this case, the struggle for worker solidarity in hard economic times — into an urgent narrative. At the same time, the casting of a star like the fine Marion Cotillard, as a worker who has to fight to keep her job, is a distraction that remains, despite the beauty of the Dardennes’ direction and their ideals.

  • [Sandra's] setbacks are easily overcome – perhaps a little too easily since she’s back on the trail of elusive workmates just an hour after leaving the hospital. As usual in Dardenne films, such melodramatic contrivances are softened by their integration into the naturalistic flow of incidents, by the overall sensitivity to social and economic realities and by the generally credible performances.

  • It’s impossible to appreciate the Dardennes (or any great directors) without acknowledging their capacity for manipulation, which they have almost always managed to conceal beneath a skein of naturalism. The disguise slips a bit here, as it did in Lorna’s Silence, but the lapses are slight and more than balanced out by all of the smart storytelling choices around them...

  • Realism becomes transcendence and vice versa, and Two Days, One Night fits immaculately into a canon ardently devoted to etching the complexities of the continuum of our being... while the film's path toward its final epiphany may be among the Dardennes' most preordained, the grace with which the filmmakers and their resplendent actress get us there nonetheless kills us softly.

  • Works as a sports movie (two more wins and the pennant is hers), works as 12 Angry Men, works as a capsule of working-class life in a time of recession. Doesn't really work as a Dardennes movie, though, coming off rushed and sometimes glib (e.g. the quarrel between father and son, escalating into instant punch-up; do these two people really live like that?), lacking the back-of-Olivier-Gourmet's-head, everything-given-its-due-time physicality of the brothers' best work.

  • What anchors Two Days, One Night, and eases its gaps, is Cotillard's extraordinary performance. A star presence if ever there was one, the actress must play against not just her looks (which scruffy hair and a lack of makeup can't offset) but her essential vitality.

  • With no soundtrack or melodramatic confrontations, the Dardennes plunge viewers into a terrifying world of unknown variables. The happy ending isn't rooted in a specific outcome so much as their characters' willingness to defy their limitations and live another day.

  • Within their circumscribed world, the Dardennes once again find a richness of human experience that dwarfs most movies made on an epic canvas... Cotillard plays Sandra as a woman who has always struggled to feel that her life has value, and little by little over the course of the “Two Days, One Night,” in the most remarkably subtle of ways, she shows her coming into a new sense of self.

  • The Dardennes have arrived at a new place of warmth, optimism, and comfort with movie stars. I don’t think they would have been capable of this movie 10 or 15 years ago. It would’ve ended in tragedy. The realism in their masterpieces used to be seeing in the dark. But they’re finding ways to be just as morally powerful working in the light.

  • A cruel plot, to be sure,Oharu-like, and unlike the usually compassionate Dardennes, forcing this actress and this character on such a harsh journey that we assuredly know the ending of once we know the beginning. But the Dardennes, they know cinema, how the colored top Cotillard wears on the first day burns with apathy and desperation, but also contains a restless soul and ropy, athletic body.

  • The Dardennes won me over this time, for a few reasons: They had the audacity to take a moment that surely seemed headed for dramatic overkill and turn it into a marvelous, if somewhat darkly shaded, joke... And they made the choice of casting Cotillard, who appears in at least one film every year at Cannes. Shouldn’t we be sick of her by now? But she has become a master of the stealth surprise, coming up with something new and wonderful pretty much every time she's onscreen.

  • Belgium's Dardenne brothers offered a tough, politically committed and finally uplifting realist drama. Two Days, One Night is about a woman (Marion Cotillard) facing redundancy who has to persuade her workmates to forgo their bonuses in order to keep her job. It's typically sober and elegant, and Cotillard excels in a nervy, vulnerable role.

  • While Rosetta ended in a form of hopeful suspension, Two Days, One Night's tight script of tickling clock, MacGuffin and twists make Sandra appear strongly like the main instrument (or engine) of a play of shifting points of views. Sorry for waving big names, but one might say "like going from Bresson to Lang." The infernal machine never stops, always sending Sandra to trigger more shifting of points of view and more unveiling of issues in the viewer's mind.

  • Many of these men and women are worse off and in greater need of a bonus than Sandra—who, if nothing else, is young and experienced—no matter the immediate repercussions on her life. The way the Dardennes foster this empathy, without allowing Sandra to wallow in self-pity—if anything, she refuses to beg, never resorting to negotiation—granting her the strength to exhibit grace during a final moral crisis of her own, further confirms their unyielding faith in human resilience and righteousness.

  • Where other filmmakers might resort to grandstanding, the Dardennes simply remain steadfastly true to life, which, along with Cotillard’s restrained performance, is what makes Two Days, One Night finally so beautiful and deeply moving.

  • [Two Days, One Night] takes a while for its power to hit home, but when it does, the film provides for one of the most emotionally moving moments of the festival... In the end, the film poses the question of the ability of human solidarity to survive the savagery of a neo-liberal economic system in crisis mode. To their immense credit, the Dardennes give an optimistic answer.

  • Even-keeled, but with an imaginative, unexpected punch as a payoff, the Dardennes’ latest foray into socially conscious cinema (Rosetta, The Kid With a Bike) is a potent isomorph of the typical management-versus-workers scenario: cynically, the bosses pit employees one against the other.

  • While it would be reductive to call the film a simple allegory, Two Days, One Night bluntly comments on the state of European Union. Sandra is recovering from clinical (as opposed to economic) depression. As she goes door to door trying to convince her colleagues to vote for her—the title refers to the amount of time she spends canvassing—the film conveys in miniature the difficulties of persuading countries with varied needs to support each other.

  • Each encounter has the tension of a heist sequence, just that the stakes are much higher. Money is tight all over, and Sandra is asking these people to give up a year of gas bills. It is the rare film where bills have a physical weight, that conveys the suffocating anxiety that money problems can instill – the complete helplessness.

  • What Two Days, One Night shares with Rossellini is that it ends where the story doesn’t: even with its ultra-conventional structure, it remains only a chapter in Sandra’s life. The final sequence reacquaints us with the familiar Dardennes motif of the protagonist walking away from us, with the camera on this occasion choosing not to follow. She will continue without us, and what may have touched us was only cursory, the length of a weekend in a lifetime.

  • This film hit me especially hard because of a personal reason: in the last year, I have been trying to use the phenomenon of neoliberal capitalism—and its wide-ranging, calamitous impacts on society and the environment—as a master paradigm to structure some of my courses. The situations, contradictions and ironies put in place and developed by the movie speak powerfully to our present moment: this is ‘contemporary’ cinema at its most urgent and jolting.

  • A series of difficult, emotionally fraught conversations made, remarkably, for the festival’s most thoroughly suspenseful film, besides perhaps Phoenix; the Dardennes’ best work since Rosetta and Marion Cotillard’s second astonishing performance of late, after her tremendous turn in James Gray’s The Immigrant.

  • The Dardenne Brothers love a good story, and Two Days, One Night, their radiant new film, features one of their best... At some point, it will occur to many viewers that Sandra, for the sake of her colleagues, perhaps _shouldn’t_ be appealing her case—and it’s this realization that gives the movie its terrible moral force. “It would be a disaster for me if you got your job back,” one of her final listeners tells her. “But I hope for your sake that you do.”

  • [Sandra] knows that her job and her family’s livelihood matter the most, but more importantly, she recognizes that establishing a stronger sense of self is something that only she has the power to change. Undoubtedly, the epiphany that Sandra experiences proves to be a positive one: keeping a job is not about fighting for justice or fighting bureaucracy; it is about the way we fight for our lives.

  • The Dardenne brothers — known for their scruffy, hand-held, realist aesthetic — have made another richly emotional film about friendship and community. The structure is repetitive, but designed to emphasize all the ways we react to another person in need.

  • In Two Days, One Night, the perspective is strong and clear: Life can be a constant string of challenges, but what’s less vital than succeeding against those hardships is surviving them with dignity intact. It is only when Sandra’s perception of the rightness or wrongness of her pursuit wavers that her spirit seeps out... Two Days, One Night’s ultimate conclusion is only a downer from the most literal-minded, plot-driven perspective; in every other significant way, it’s a profound personal victory.

  • By structuring the story around a dozen or so personal interactions, the Dardennes are proposing that we cannot make sense of what Sandra is asking apart from the very specific conditions of each particular encounter, such that each time she asks a new person her question, she effectively asks a new question. There actually _is_ no abstract moral dilemma, no general alternative between egoism and altruism. By telling this story in the form of a series, the Dardennes challenge the very idea.

  • It’s a film that captures humanity at its best and its worst, sometimes simultaneously. Nobody is a hero, though some people act heroically; nobody is a villain, though some people have closed themselves off. Sandra herself is both defeated and persistent, which qualifies as a definition of what it means to be alive, knowing full well that the grave awaits.

  • The film’s drama lies less in the outcome than in the repetition of these individual encounters, which the Dardennes show in full. Each begins with Sandra speaking the same words, yet they end differently, with responses ranging from cold reprobation to violence to tearful gratitude. All are tense, unpredictable, and magnificent.

  • The presence of Cotillard creates a fascinating new subtext: a glamorous star who... has often graced the covers of glossy fashion magazines and, is among the most highly remunerated actors in France finds herself, over and over, forced to beg for help from her vastly less well-known supporting cast. The effect is extraordinary—it is a person we recognize as a “have” forced to do a sort of penance, soliciting aid for herself in the world of the “have-nots.”

  • With its lean narrative and humanist resolve, Two Days, One Night can be seen as a throwback to the type of Hollywood melodramas of the 1930s, lean morality plays that explore the fluctuations of confidence in characters on the brink of social inconsequence. But this is less Frank Capra than Frank Borzage; the film intensely expresses the physical and emotional cost of fighting for your worth, both within the workplace and at home.

  • Cotillard is remarkable in the part. It's rare for a star of her magnitude to act for the Dardennes, who generally prefer nonprofessionals and unknowns, but she's impressively shed anything resembling glamour, or affect. We can't take our eyes off her, in part because she feels like she's on a psychic edge, constantly in danger of falling off. This is the most vulnerable performance she's ever given — watching her at times feels like watching an exposed nerve.

  • The to-and-fro may symbolise the acceptation/rejection of the star system into the texture of the film, yet the question of ambivalence toward the Other is at the core of the Dardenne’s cinema... Two Days is built on a suspense that – a first for the directors – winks at genre cinema.

  • The most masterful film of 2014 was also the quietest... It's hard to imagine any other director with a soft enough touch to keep the material from edging into melodrama, but its that restraint and precision which makes the film so effective. [The Dardennes'] control is matched by that of Cotillard whose performance as Sandra is powerful without overpowering.

  • As Sandra, a factory employee pleading to her co-workers for her job over the course of a weekend, Marion Cotillard gives a performance composed of seemingly casual miracles, achieving a rare and palpable degree of emotional translucency.

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