Directed and Written by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione
Depression is a bitch. I should know, I was wallowing in that pool of sticky tar for many, many years. Getting a job can also be a real bitch, not to mention keeping it. Being fired I imagine would depress any person for a bit. Sandra’s (Marion Cotillard) situation is an extremely convincing look into what can happen if you combine them all.
After a bout of severe depression that caused her to need a break from work, she is looked at differently. Her passion for her job, her willingness to work hard is immediately questioned, simply because the reason she needed leave from work was for mental health issues; recovery from a physical injury can be seen and therefore accurately, and less harshly, judged. Her employers make the decision to hold a vote, claiming that she cannot do her job since her leave from work, and therefore if her fellow workmates want their 1,000 euro bonus, Sandra cannot keep her job. She hears of this news in the opening scene, which is expertly handled: No music at all (which continues throughout the entirety of the film, really putting you into the scenes), with periods of deafening silence during a phone call, as Sandra finds out what has happened. She takes this information in and collapses in tears. This simple but powerful scene says many things simultaneously, and the lack of any soundtrack makes the scene even more poignant. It also provides the basis for this simple but emotional and surprisingly tension-filled drama: as the title suggests, she has only two days, a weekend, to attempt to contact her fellow workmates and convince them to help her keep her job, at the expense of their promised, sizeable bonus. What seems like a simple and potentially boring premise is anything but, as she is forced to confront her workmates individually.
This is the plot of the film, as Sandra fights her lingering depression, we follow her as she prepares to confront her workmates one by one. Workmates who all voted to keep their bonus over keeping Sandra on the payroll. Each confrontation is filled with emotion, as she is forced to ask each to vote against their own bonus; her friend has managed to convince the powers that be to hold a second ballot on Monday. Filled with self-loathing, she hesitantly must ask this of every person she works with over a single weekend, resulting in a wide array of confrontations. Sandra finds out who her real friends are within her workplace, as the reactions of her workmates range from being shameful of their vote against her, to greed-laced excuses. She also realises the true emotional nature of the awkward proposal that she is putting to them. She is, after all, asking them to make an extremely difficult decision. The reaction of each workmate is the perfect window to their personality and true nature as a human being, which is a nice touch to show us what each of the people are really like – in a single scene.
The amount of xanax tablets she pops is one indication of this situation and how she feels about it, though this is far from a depressing movie, as she is willing to fight. The range of emotions Sandra goes through is vast, each mood swing a direct result of how each colleague reacted to her frank and difficult proposal. Marion Cottilard excels in her role, being on-screen for the entire movie. During her pleas to each worker, you will most likely find yourself on the edge of your seat waiting for their response, waiting for the reasons or excuses as the movie goes by. Will she keep her job? This basic concept actually provides some tense moments, and you can’t help but wonder for the entire movie, what will happen? Will she win?
Another aspect of this movie that I enjoyed was the accurate and heartfelt depiction of depression in all its ugly glory. Marion Cottilard does an amazing job of portraying the actions and emotions that a person with severe depression will go through, especially when going through not only the potential loss of employment, but more so the prospect of forcing herself to awkwardly confront a large amount of people; with nothing to help her gauge what their responses will be. It is such a simple movie, but it really captures what depression can do to some people when enough stress builds up in their life. And all the stress caused in this movie is because we are somehow expected to work, to constantly maintain employment as prices for essentials rise and families begin to struggle. That is a point here that truly hits home, as most people can relate to how much losing a job can hurt.
This flick is unfortunately all-too realistic. Money rules the world, and the thought of losing 1,000 euros would be daunting for many people. Others though can do without such an amount of money, but living in a culture that revolves entirely around currency, greed will always creeps into the equation. Her colleagues instinctively won’t want to lose money, even though that they don’t actually have it yet! But the promise of the money alone is enough.
We never meet the deliciously evil Jean Marc, responsible for the vote – the person who doesn’t think Sandra can still do her job – until the climactic ending brings home a simple yet moving story that has spiraled into an emotional rollercoaster of sorts. It is a satisfying ending to an incredibly emotional movie that can be both heartbreaking and heartwarming throughout. Marion Cottilard is again amazing after her dramatic, incredible turn in the period drama, The Immigrant. which I highly recommend.
4.5/5 – An emotionally tense film that will resonate with almost anyone. Not to be missed!
written by epilepticmoondancer
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Excellent Jordan! My god I was so blown away by Cotillard, as you know already. 🙂 🙂 I’m a big fan of films that hew closely to reality, I don’t know why. Just a preference that’s started to develop since my time blogging about the movies. And it doesn’t get much better than this one
Indeed, and a pretty big part of reality is the human condition, This movie is so relatable in that sense, it is incredibly easy to get behind Sandra, even as she keeps popping Xanax tablets like they are candy and seems to at times sabotage herself. But this is again realistic like you say, and having gone through a lot myself (epilepsy ain’t simple!) I found myself captivated by this movie.
I am looking forward to Still Alice with Julianne Moore which is similar in that its a study of humanity and relationships. You seen it? Knowing Australia it has probably been out for weeks in the US or the UK already, but hey, its Julianne Moore. She rivals Cottilard for her list of fantastic roles don’t you think? She makes any movie worth a gander.
thanks again for reading Tom 🙂