Two Days, One Night @ The Ross

Sandra (Marion Cotillard) walks the line between co-workers

Sandra (Marion Cotillard) walks the line between co-workers

It takes courage to ask for what you want in life, especially when that desire is created out of a dire need to survive. To ask for anything is complicated because that act requires another party to grant to you your request; and, depending on the circumstances, the quest for any desire can put you at their mercy! The exchange can go either way: a cry of jubilance or a descent into humiliation. French brothers and filmmakers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne have concluded that to ask is a performance of humility in their French language film Two Days, One Night starring Marion Cotillard and Fabrizio Rongione.

Manu (Fabrizio Rangione) encourages Sandra (Cotilliard) to make a call.

Manu (Fabrizio Rangione) encourages Sandra (Cotilliard) to make a call.

As the story goes, Sandra, a Belgian blue collar worker played Cotillard, has been fired essentially by her co-workers in favor of a company bonus of 1,000 Euros. The manager has found that his team of employees can get the work done without Sandra. He offers them a choice: take a company bonus and fire Sandra or vote for Sandra and forego the bonus. Sandra is told of the vote on Friday. Her friend Juliette, played by Catherine Salee, persuades the boss, Dumont, played by Batiste Sornin to schedule another vote that Monday. He agrees, and Sandra’s husband Manu, played with charming patience by Rongione, convinces Sandra to visit each co-worker over the weekend or two days and one night, and ask them to recast their vote in favor of her keeping the job.

A co-worker expresses remorse for voting against Sandra

A co-worker expresses remorse for voting against Sandra

What follows is a disquieting journey as audiences are forced to experience Sandra’s every plea wrapped in humility and emotion. Cotillard is brilliant as Sandra, as she displays every minute detail of her character’s emotion. She cannot appear desperate; nor can she beg but she must demonstrate to each co-worker that her job is just as important to her as those 1,000 euros are to them. Yet, the filmmakers carefully coax us into an understanding of her co-workers’s reasons for their vote against her. Those euros come just in time to take care of those family necessities that otherwise would go to seed.

Sandra and the one night visit in search of one vote

Sandra and the one night visit in search of one vote

Each visit … each knock on the door … each ring of the door-bell brings her front and center to the culprits; their exchanges are delicate especially since Sandra’s request lays out her personal financial situation: her husband’s salary is not enough to take care of the family. Sandra’s firm resolve to take this most excruciating journey to stand face-to-face with the culprits, however, is a portrayal of a particular kind of heroine, and you will love her. There is no jubilant cry nor a descent into humiliation; rather, there is a sigh of relief from a woman who, at the end of her journey, brings home to her family a personal self whose sleep will come easy.

Two Days, One Night plays through February 26 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

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