Actors: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salée
Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, AC-3, DTS Surround Sound, Subtitled, Surround Sound, Widescreen
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Criterion Collection (Direct)
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Run Time: 95 minutes
If there is a phrase that seems to be utilized most when discussing the work of brothers and critically acclaimed filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, it is ‘social consciousness.’ Few filmmakers are as aware of the effects that business and politics have on the average human life, and those average people tend to be the protagonists at the center of their fictional narratives. This awareness no doubt comes from their years of making small documentaries, beginning in the 1970s, though their understanding of the rich depth within the human spirit is what marries these political ideals with characters we can all find relatable. Two Days, One Night may be the first film they have made with a famous movie star heading up the cast, but the manner with which Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard is able to shed the glamour of a movie star to embody the role of a simple struggling mother is a testament both to her acting abilities (earning her a second Best Actress nomination) and the Dardenne’s undeniable skill as socially conscious filmmakers.
Through the narrative of Two Days, One Night, it is clear the Dardenne brothers are not only aware of what is going on in the working world; they know what it feels like for those struggling to survive. Cotillard stars as Sandra, a wife and mother struggling with depression when she discovers that during a short period of sick leave the foreman of the factory she works at discovered the job could be done with one less employee. The decision has been made to terminate her position, unless Sandra can convince a majority of her co-workers to sacrifice their annual bonus. She has one weekend to track down her co-workers and plead her case, before a vote on Monday morning determines her fate at the company.
The simplicity of the narrative is typical of the Dardenne brothers, allowing the depth to emerge from the characters rather than plot. Because of this, much of the film’s strength comes from the relatable performance from Cotillard. Sandra is repeatedly beat down by the harsh realities of the world, and the struggle to find the hope and optimism to continue trying allows small victories for the protagonist and audience members who can relate to this daily battle. With each encounter that Sandra has with her co-workers, we are exposed to the reality that Sandra’s battle is not the only one. Everyone has their own obstacles and difficulties, though some react more favorably to the pressure than others. Without ever preaching or condescending to the audience, Two Days, One Night provides a message of compassion and support for your fellow man. And that’s the power of the Dardenne brothers as filmmakers; they are able to say so much without having to say anything at all.
This director-approved Special Edition Blu-ray release for the Criterion Collection includes a new 2K digital master presentation, the transfer of which was supervised by director of photography Alain Marcoen, along with a 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The special features include several new extras, from interviews with the Dardennes and their leading actors to a tour of the film’s locations. There is also a new introduction to their 1979 short documentary, When Léon M.’s Boat Went Down the Meuse for the First Time, which is relevant to this film’s themes and subject matter. Also included is a new video essay by critic Kent Jones, and a foldout insert with a written essay by Girish Shambu.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 9.5/10
Historical Significance: 9/10