Friday, April 3, 2015

The feel again…


There is a saying that ‘it’s not the story you tell but how you tell it’, and for me, ‘Two Days, One Night’ is a perfect proof of that.  There is an extreme simplicity about this story, some could even say that the simplicity is almost skeletal, but the way that the Dardenne brothers have told it (and, really, how Marion Cotillard has told it) is so earnest, so honest and so rich that this simple tale becomes much more; so much more.  It’s odd to say that a film that is practically a repetition of scenes with different faces can be so enthralling, but at a brisk 95 minutes, ‘Two Days, One Night’ packs in SO MUCH character development in those repetitions scenes that it remains one of the most effecting films I’ve seen in all of 2014.



The story told centers around Sandra.  Sandra has recently suffered from a bout of depression that left her unable to function in life.  She took a leave from work, and it’s apparent that her husband has taken most, if not all, of the household duties upon his own shoulders, including taking care of the kids.  Finally feeling able to re-enter the world (and reliant on medication for that), Sandra is ready to return to work, only to find out that her workmates have elected to have her fired in order to receive their bonus.  Unfortunately, without her income, her family is going to suffer.  It’s already a struggle with both her and her husband working full time, and due to her time off they are in dire-straits.  With the prodding of her husband and close friends, Sandra decides to fight for her job, despite depression rearing its head again and urging her to just give up.  So, in an attempt to save her job and her family, Sandra gets the addresses of all her co-workers and sets out to talk to them all face to face and plead for them to reconsider their vote, giving up their bonuses so she can keep her job.

And so she does…talk to everyone.

For a film that repeats its scenario so much, the depth in Cotillard’s performance (is this even a performance?  I mean, it feels like home movies of a real woman) is so alarmingly acute that it keeps us completely glued to her journey.  Cotillard is, in a word, incredible here. 


Now, I debated bringing up this point, but I feel as though I really need to address it in order to really explain myself and my feeling towards this film.  So, for those of you who haven’t seen this, I am going to mention a minor spoiler (although I will NOT mention the outcome of her struggle) so just be forewarned. 

This film, for me, became something so incredibly special in the very last seconds, when a simple phrase (here we are with more simplicity) left Sandra’s lips; “I’m happy”.  With those words, this film and Sandra’s story become something so rich, so complete.  Having lived in a home with a woman experiencing deep depression, I understand how desolate one can feel, how empty and lost and helpless one can feel, even when they are without reason.  Sandra, broken to the core, wants to just give up on life, throw her hands in the air and walk away from this situation, her troubles, her struggle and inevitably, her life.  But, through the course of her own determination, no matter how forced, she found in herself a sense of self-worth.  She found a reason to continue, and so regardless of the outcome, she had found happiness.  I tell you, when those words left her lips I broke.  Tears were streaming down my face and I was shaking.  No two words have had such an incredible impact on me, cinematically, in a very long time.


Within the confines of simplicity, the Dardenne brothers and the marvelous (like, greatest actress of all time) Marion Cotillard have delivered something far from simple; they have delivered absolute truth.

A.

20 comments:

  1. Oh this sounds good.........
    I absolutely l o v e when movies capture simple moments that are, at the same time, life-changing. Just reading your description of the 'I'm happy' scene made me feel that I would like this movie. I'll have to check it out.

    I have never really liked Marion Cotillard as a person, but as an actress and artist, her style of performance is beautiful. It sounds like she won't disappoint me in this film.

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    1. Yeah, sadly Cotillard appears somewhat...dumb when she's interviewed, but I do feel that a lot of that is an issue with English not being her first language (I'm not even sure it's her second) and I think she's rather unsure of how she'll come across, and I think that makes her appear insensitive at times and unintelligent at others, and I'm not sure she's either. Regardless though, she's probably the best working actress. I mean, her range is incredible and her ability to find incredible roles under the direction of some superb directors is so rewarding.

      I hope you seek this one out. I don't think you'll be let down!

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  2. This does sound like a gem and Marion Cotillard is a brilliant actress. Depression is not only difficult on the person who is suffering with it but on all the people who love that person. It is most difficult so Kudos to you!

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    1. Depression is a kick in the ass to everyone...and it sucks.

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  3. While it's hard to say which of the Dardenne Brothers is the best play to start. This one is not a bad place to start yet it also very accessible. Having followed their work for years, I was just wowed by this film. Not only for the fact that they didn't change their approach. Instead, they just got better at it and there was a confidence in that approach to simplicity while getting a pro like Marion to really do something. Even in conveying depression at its most realistic. I will totally await for whatever the Dardenne Brothers do next.

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    1. This ain't a bad place to start. Le' Enfant was my first...and I was hooked immediately.

      What they've done here, many directors would have never even attempted.

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  4. Beautiful review! I've always been fascinated by the way the Dardennes can tell a story with such simplicity and truth, and this film is no exception. Cotillard, of course, delivers another magnificent performance. Like, I'm still overjoyed about her Oscar nomination!

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    1. I cheered when she was nominated...and that was before I saw the film!

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  5. I was convinced you wouldn't like this film. Mea culpa.

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    1. Is this because I hated Ida? LOL.

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  6. Jealous. I want to see this so badly.

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    1. I was fortunate to catch this in the theater a few months ago.

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  7. I skipped part of this because I haven't seen the film yet, but the first few paragraphs of your review are gorgeous. I'll make sure this is on my list.

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    1. Aw, thanks! I hope you get a chance to see it. It's such a powerful film.

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  8. UGH. THIS FILM.

    Everything you said here is so true - how did they manage to make the SAME EXACT SCENE over and over again so compelling? And Cotillard's work is just beyond. I totally agree with you about that last scene really bringing the film to another level. Really beautiful and well-done in every way.

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    1. That last scene was so unexpected...and it shook me to the core...just wow!

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  9. Oh man, I REALLY should see this soon! LOVE what you said here: ‘it’s not the story you tell but how you tell it’ Absolutely! A so-so story that's told in an intriguing way is much better than a great story that's poorly-told.

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    1. YES, and the Dardenne's have a great way of doing just that. They just know how to tell a story, how to make it compelling. I hope you can catch this soon!

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  10. I thought this film was absolutely brilliant in its simplicity and not only was Marion Cotillard brilliant (as always), but when her name was announced on Nomination Day, I literally jumped up and down. Because of how she hardly campaigned and got in over Jennifer Aniston, who did campaign, her inclusion for Best Actress is a fine example of quality trumping politics, proving that the work can speak for itself.

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    1. YES! I cheered and woke up my wife, but I didn't care because her Oscar nomination was GLORIOUS!

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