PFF23: Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, BE/FRA)

Although I’m entirely (and ashamedly) unfamiliar with the Dardennes’ reputable body of work, it’s to my understanding that their filmography is an amassed masterclass in humanism. Without missing a beat, Two Days, One Night fits the mold as you’d expect it would in its illustration of one Sandra’s (Marion Cotillard) weekend-long struggle to keep her job. Chosen by coworkers to be laid off in favor of their sizable bonuses, it becomes harder and harder for Sandra to remain strong amid adversity given her depression-addled past and ever-weakening resolve.

Wholly speaking, the film in question is a purposefully nuanced exercise that prefers to emulate timely authenticity over anything else and frankly, it rarely fails to succeed. While procedural in scope, it’s clear that the narrative’s aim is to convincingly convey Cotillard’s Sandra’s struggle in a relatable manner that’s impossible not to sympathize with, especially in this economically trying day and age. Everything ranging from her worsening relapse into depression to her concerns regarding her work environment should she be rehired is spot-on and, frankly, I’m hard-pressed to mention a comparable effort this assured and well-rounded.

Even though we’re faced with potentially alienating repetition regarding Sandra’s explanation of her predicament, the film’s presentation remains admirably adroit as individuals’ responses are logical and poised amid our protagonist’s tribulations. Sympathy isn’t forced despite the proceedings’ focus as it nonoppressively illustrates the harsh realities at hand, of which is a refreshingly honest approach to a formula frequently steeped in melodrama.

Remaining entirely adept in its chronicling of the titular time frame, Two Days, One Night is an agreeably simplistic but masterfully orchestrated look behind the curtain of an individual’s relatable hardships. Its rudimentary procedural essence becomes forgivable as emotionality trumps familiarity, not to mention the sheer experience of viewing something so steadfastly authentic in this day and age remaings refreshing beyond words. As it quietly but assuredly crushes you, the Dardennes’ latest is – as far as I’ve deduced – an accessible if particularly characteristic benchmark in their palpably unique body of work.

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