“Two Days, One Night”: Film Depicts Depression, Quietly

Critical favorite Two Days, One Nightjust released on DVD, is of interest to this blog because of its portrayal of depression…

Depression may feel endless, but it’s never constant. It comes and goes in torturous peaks and valleys, often triggered by external influences beyond anyone’s control. We laugh, we cry; we scream, we whisper — it’s a process. On a long enough timeline, the illness may become a safety net — or a form of seclusion — offering sanctity and solitude because, after all, that’s what has become the norm. If anything of this rings a bell, it should; everyone battles with depression at one point or another. Whether it’s conquered or contained, however, is how the lines are typically drawn.

With Two Days, One Night, two-time Palme d’Or winners Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne turn their camera on Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard for a swift 95-minute portrait of the pitfalls and struggles of depression. Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound

The Plot

A young Belgian worker, Sandra (Marion Cotillard), finds out she’s at risk of being fired. David Sims, The Atlantic, further explains:

Sandra, we gradually learn, is resurfacing from a bout of depression that saw her miss time at work, and in her absence her bosses realized they could live without her by spreading her workload out among the other employees. They thus face a cruel choice, proposed by their bosses: They can either vote to receive a 1,000 Euro bonus, or save Sandra’s job and let her come back to work. After losing one vote, Sandra is permitted to make her case amid talk of management interference. Two Days, One Night follows Sandra’s sometimes excruciating, sometimes heartwarming journey through town trying to convince the co-workers she barely knows to reject the money and give her another chance.

More details from A.O. Scott, New York Times:

Sandra and her husband, Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), live with their two young children in a clean, well-appointed townhouse, a big, hard-won step up from the ‘social housing’ where they used to live. The thought of going back is especially galling to Manu, who works in the kitchen of a chain restaurant and who pushes his wife to make her case. Anxious, frequently tearful and quick to reach for a Xanax, Sandra would rather curl up in bed than endure the humiliation of begging for the pity of her peers.

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald:

The stress begins to take a toll on Sandra, leading her to question everything, including her marriage. ‘I can tell we’re going to split up,’ she tells her husband. ‘You pity me but you don’t love me.’ Cotillard, who earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance, plays the character as a woman hanging on by the barest of threads, her anxiety growing as the deadline approaches and a new vote will be taken. You worry what she’s capable of doing if things don’t go her way — this is a strong but damaged woman who hasn’t fully recuperated yet…

The Depiction of Depression

Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound: “To date, depression has never felt so delicate and hypnotic on film.”

Kristy Puchko, Cinema Blend: “This is not the kind of depression that Hollywood likes to sell complete with gnashing of teeth and pained wails. It’s quieter, more about a lack of verve and oppressive melancholy. It’s true to life, and at times hard to watch. But every step of the way, Cotillard nails this tricky performance.”

The Trailer

Selected Reviews

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: “Consider Marion Cotillard’s Oscar-nominated performance…a tour de nuance.”

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald: “Two Days, One Night is the story of a woman in dire straits of a specific nature. But her situation, and the reactions of those whose help she seeks, is universal. Sooner or later, we all need a helping hand in our lives. But what happens when you need to convince people to extend one?”

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: “As a parable on karma, capitalism and Darwinian corporate politics, ‘Two Days, One Night’ can often feel brutal. As a testament to connection, service, sacrifice and self-worth, it’s a soaring, heart-rending hymn.”

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