When a woman’s co-workers vote in favor of getting a bonus that will result in the loss of her job, will she be able to convince the majority of people to change their vote so she will not be unemployed?
Sandra (Cotillard) and her husband Manu are a blue-collar double-income couple with children; as such, they struggle to make ends meet. When Sandra is diagnosed with depression, she is forced to miss work for an extended period of time. As a result, her boss has to proceed with a smaller staff; in order to keep their output from declining during this time, they are all required to put in overtime. Just as Sandra is starting to recover and prepares her return to work, she is hit with some bad news: she may now be finding herself out of work because her co-workers voted to accept a bonus – and since the small company cannot afford to both pay the bonuses and maintain her salary, Sandra will be laid off.
Desperate, Sandra implores her boss to let them take a second vote; initially, he declines, but she is eventually able to convince him once it is explained that one of the workers was able to sway the vote by hinting that if Sandra wasn’t laid off, one of them would be certain to lose their job instead. Agreeing to another vote, he decides that it will take place on the following Monday morning – and since this is taking place on a Friday afternoon, that means Sandra has only the weekend to try to talk her co-workers into voting in her favor. Discouraged, Sandra is resigned that she will lose her job until Manu buttresses her with a pep talk.
One by one, Sandra tries to meet with every person who voted for the bonus. What she finds is that not every one of her colleagues is willing to even listen to her; furthermore, some refusing to meet with her are angry, almost violently so. Others, however, may be more sympathetic to her situation, but have compelling family-oriented reasons why they must vote in favor of their bonus. As Monday morning arrives, Sandra shows up at work so she can learn the outcome of the vote immediately. But when her employer makes Sandra an offer to keep her job even if the vote goes against her, will she accept it despite the fact that it would negatively impact one of her co-workers?
Well, so much for the French being Socialists! When the NIMBY effect takes over, apparently all of that economic philosophy goes right out the window. Despite all the plaudits from many of the critics (not to mention the fact that this motion picture may wind up representing Belgium as a Best Foreign Language Film nominee in the Academy Awards), “Two Days, One Night” seems to have one of the flimsiest plots and most contrived premises imaginable. Having been made by The Dardennes Brothers – twice winners of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for previous efforts – probably has a considerable amount to do with this enthusiasm from the critics; the brothers have a reputation for making movies with a strong political message, so most critics will be more inclined to give it a positive review over, say, the next vampire flick.
When making decisions about giving employees a bonus or downsizing, what company leaves this up to its workers? What is the management responsible for if not for making tough choices such as these? That’s precisely where “Two Days, One Night” requires its audience to suspend disbelief beyond any reasonable limits; this movie is more of a fairy tale than something can be taken seriously, especially if it’s trying to make a political point. It’s difficult to comprehend how its filmmakers would actually expect viewers to buy into this illogical set-up. Also, why is this entire situation established as a Zero-Sum Game? Is management so incompetent that they couldn’t restructure the bonuses so that the employees would get slightly less so Sandra could keep her job?
Another problem with “Two Days, One Night” is that although it is thankfully short at an hour and a half, its second act seems to drag on interminably; scene after scene is stunningly redundant. To an extent, the movie is similar to “Groundhog Day” in the sense that the audience is forced to see the same scenes over and over again. There’s very little inherently fascinating about seeing Sandra beseech each of her co-workers in such a pathetic manner; despite that she should be a very sympathetic character, Sandra seems more desperate than someone who’s fighting for her job and her family should be.