Deux Jours, Une Nuit, dir/wr. Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, st. Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione
After suffering from a debilitating bout of depression, solar-panel factory worker Sandra returns to work to find that her sixteen colleagues have been coerced by their team leader into the realisation that her workload may be efficiently managed between them, and senior management has offered them all a €1000 bonus if they vote to make Sandra redundant. On challenging the methodology of the process, her boss gives her the weekend - the titular time span - to convince her co-workers to change their vote; a majority win in her favour will allow her to stay, but the workers will forfeit their bonus. I suspect it's no accident that the Dardenne brothers have placed their heroine within a factory manufacturing products whose target consumers are those who can afford to lead ethically greener lives, and it's similarly interesting to note their primary function chimes with Sandra's 48-hour Herculean task - to harness the light and offer it to her teammates as an alternative way of living. There are no villains (or indeed a score) present here, only the spectre of economic decline and its effect on ordinary souls. Cotillard has always been an artist with consummate control over every aspect of her performance. The urgency with which Sandra hastily visits each of her coolio-workers in turn is tempered by a leaden spirit, the lethargy and disconsolate funk of abject despondency Cotillard wears like a millstone, and whose presence is felt even through fleeting smiles or the few transitory moments of hope in the film. There is a murkier theme present in Deux Jours, Une Nuit, one of unscrupulous and opportunistic management - as Margin Call's CEO John Tuld proclaims on the eve of the imminent financial collapse, "There's a lot of money to be made coming out of this mess", but the film compellingly gives us a singular protagonist to champion, and Cotillard's Sandra is a memorable cypher for the tenacity and unrelenting spirit of the disenfranchised.