Brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have always produced films that have a strong connection with their audiences, films like The Kid with a Bike (2011) or The Child (2005) and their latest film is no exception. Two Days, One Night (2014) is a movie about solidarity, industrial relations and the right to work. Surprisingly bearing in mind it’s a depressing wee story and one that doesn’t vary much from scene to scene, it’s a movie that hold’s your attention.
Sandra Bya (Marion Cotillard) is a wife and mother and has been suffering from depression and has been off work for some time. She is now ready to return to Solwal, a company that makes solar panels. In her absence her 16 workmates have been balloted by her boss who has given the staff the choose between allowing Sandra back or receiving a bonus of €1000 each and letting her go. The majority has voted for the bonus! Assisted by her workmate Juliette (Catherine Salee) and her supportive husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) she sets out over one weekend to try and persuade her remaining workmates to reverse the decision when her boss announces that he is allowing a new ballot is to take place on Monday morning. We follow Sandra as she painstakingly approaches each workmate and tries to change their minds over two days and one night. Most of them have their reasons for wanting to accept the monetary reward and thereby knowingly putting the working class Sandra and her family in dire financial straits’.
The directors, who also wrote and produced the film, got their idea from various newspaper articles about similar situations when authoritarian bosses proposals challenged low paid workers solidarity. Since 2008 the recession has got deeper with in-work poverty becoming worse, and full time jobs becoming ever more scarce and harder to hold onto with zero hours contract becoming more widespread. It’s easy for workers like Sandra to loose faith and feel pretty worthless, scared of life and gradually loosing their confidence. It’s commendable to see directors like the Dardenne Brothers tackle problems of this austerity-ridden age and big stars like Cotillard supporting their endeavors. Even the film industry it self has recognized this with many plaudits and award nominations for this rather exceptional piece of work.