Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night (2014)

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Marion Cotillard received her second Oscar nomination for playing Sandra Bya, a young and depressed belgian mother who has to convince her co-workers to give up their bonus in order to retain her job.

Two Days, One Night is a very small-scale but interesting film that I respect. I understand the criticisms about it being repetitive and boring, but I feel like this was what the film-makers were going for: to capture the harsh realities behind the lives of the working class, and of human beings in general. What I especially admired about the film is that no one is truly “good or bad” – I felt for the workers who chose not to vote for Sandra, even though her livelihood is at stake. The movie made me appreciative of what I have in life now, and how I’m blessed to not have to truly fight or struggle to get a good education and job to survive. Such realism in films have been rare for quite a while, and while I don’t flat-out love the film, I still think it’s a piece that is worth watching by film-fanatics.

I’m a fan of Marion Cotillard as an actress, so when her name was announced during this year’s Oscar nominations, I instantly felt my heart leap in joy, even though I have yet to watch the film then. It probably wasn’t an easy nomination to obtain, and yet the Academy made the wise decision to pick her over Amy Adams and Jennifer Aniston. People always choose to remember her for those few seconds of awkwardness in The Dark Knight Rises over her true brilliance in La Vie En Rose (!!!), Rust and Bone and Inception. That admittedly bothers me a little, so when they finally chose to recognise her again, I couldn’t help but smile 😀

Cotillard doesn’t merely act as Sandra – she brings her to life. Every emotion, every inner conflict, and every glimmer of hope can be felt so intensely and realistically thanks to Cotillard’s impeccable instincts. Whenever she approaches her co-workers, you can feel the immense shame and embarrassment that she feels – a natural reaction, considering that she’s asking struggling families to give up 1000 euros. When she says that she feels like a beggar, I totally empathized with her. She plays Sandra with objectivity and honesty, which is something I love considering this is the kind of role where actors usually try to manipulate the audience into feeling for the characters. You don’t particularly love or hate Sandra, you just see her as an ordinary human being who is fighting, not just against her crippling depression, but for her survival.

The best part for the performance for me is how she portrays Sandra’s journey of self-discovery and internal growth. Due to the realistic nature of the film, there aren’t many juicy monologues or Oscary scenes, but I always felt that Sandra was becoming stronger and stronger as a person throughout the film. From her constant breakdowns in the beginning (which are fantastically acted), to the final scene where she stood up against her boss and *SPOILER* refused to take back the job because she didn’t want another person to lose his job*SPOILER*, you can see how much Sandra has changed. She learned to cope with her inner demons, and fight for her own rights by taking a stand. The scene where she tells her husband she’s happy with her decision is probably the best part for me – it’s very subtle and quiet, but that smile on her face itself speaks a million about the character’s change. 5/5

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