The Dardenne brothers consistently make compelling dramas that win awards, from Rosetta (1999) to The Kid With a Bike (2011), and this drama might be their best yet. It takes a simple premise and twists it into a comment on the changing structure of global society, all while never losing the intensely personal perspective. It's never a statement film, but it says much more than movies that shout their messages loudly.
The central character is Sandra (Marion Cotillard), who has just returned to work after an emotional breakdown. Then she's left stunned when her boss (Baptiste Sornin) calls a vote on a Friday afternoon, and employees choose to make Sandra redundant so they can keep their €1,000 bonuses. Her friend Juliette (Catherine Salee) gets the boss to agree to re-run the vote on Monday by secret ballot, which gives Sandra the weekend to sway people to save her job, which she desperately needs to keep her family afloat. Her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) accompanies her on this degrading task, begging her colleagues one by one to give up their cash for her. And it's almost more than she can bear. For every thrilling surge of compassion she feels, there's another worker who coldly refuses her pleas.
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne based the film on a real scenario, which is awful to imagine. Indeed, most of the film's characters express horror at the unfairness of the situation, but Sandra and Manu just have to get on with things in a matter-of-fact way that grounds the film in earthy emotion and, thankfully, wry humour. Cotillard gives another fully invested performances as a woman barely keeping a grip on herself, let alone finding the reserves needed to take care of her kids. She hides her true feelings from everyone as long as she can, and her main flaw seems to be an inability to see that she has a husband and colleagues who genuinely care about her. She's not facing this seemingly hopeless situation alone.
Continue reading: Two Days, One Night Review
Cyril (Doret) is an angry tornado of a boy who lives in a care home with no idea where his father has moved. In a fit of desperation, he goes in search of his beloved bike, which is found by a neighbour, Samantha (De France). Her kindness strikes a chord with Cyril, and he starts visiting her for weekends.
She also helps him find his father (Renier), who can't cope with the responsibilities of fatherhood. But Cyril then turns to a local thug (Di Mateo), who teaches him how to rob a local businessman.
Continue reading: The Kid With A Bike Review
Marthe and Michel (Huppert and Gourmet) live in idyllic isolation on an unfinished highway with their three children: snarky sunbather Judith (Leroux), obsessive teen Marion (Budd) and lively young Julien (Klein). But their quiet life is about to be shattered when, after 10 years, Route E57 is finally opened. Suddenly, they're cut off from work and school by a crowded, high-speed motorway. But while Marion frets about pollution, Marthe refuses to leave her beloved home, leaving Michel no choice but to take drastic action.
Continue reading: Home Review
The young mother in question is Sonia (Déborah François) and she finally finds her boyfriend, Bruno (Jérémie Renier) on a street, scheming to rob a man with two teenagers. Bruno sees the baby as a passing interest, something that makes Sonia happy so he is happy. Bruno is not smart and he resorts to crime often, but he is by no means a bad person; he sees most things in terms of how much he can get for them. Therefore, when he is left alone with Jimmy, his impulses lead him to sell the child on the black market. When he shows the wad of money to Sonia, she faints and calls the cops on her awakening. Bruno gets the child back, but not without owing money to some local hoods, which forces him into robbery again with his frequent partner, Steve (Jérémie Segard).
Continue reading: L'Enfant Review
With our gaze positioned directly over his shoulder - providing us with an all-too-intimate familiarity with Gourmet's ear hair - the Dardennes force us to assume Olivier's subjective worldview. Still, despite our proximity, scarcely anything about this strange man is initially decipherable. He's a quiet, pensive individual with a gift for measurement - he can scarily deduce the distance between any two things just by looking at them - living a life of stultifying nothingness. The filmmakers, however, take great pains to explicitly tell us as little as possible about Olivier. Most of what we learn about his personality is revealed not courtesy of high drama but instead through watching him perform mundane daily rituals: helping his students with their carpentry assignments, cleaning his clothes with an air blower after a day in the workshop, doing sit-ups on his barren kitchen floor.
Continue reading: The Son Review
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