Xavier Dolan’s new film seemed like the event so far …
The end of Sandra’s (Marion Cotillard) journey does not matter, it is the journey that does. And though that sounds entirely conventional, even cliché, it might be the brilliance of Belgian auteurs Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne; their ability to get away with plot points that would seem at home in the most Hollywood, middlebrow fare comes off as resonant, enthralling, and emotionally realistic. Thus, in Two Days, One Night, the Dardennes prove their relevancy and potency as directors once again.
Sandra (Marion Cotillard) spends the majority of Two Days, One Night knocking on the doors of her co-workers and modestly pleading with them to decline a significant pay bonus so that she can save her job and her family. Some are instantly receptive to her request while others blow her off and even resort to violence. It’s an episodic structure that is executed with measured precision and tension from master Belgian auteurs and critical darlings Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (The Kid with a Bike, L’Enfant). Acting as the antithesis of the hardworking, stubborn, and desperate titular character from the directing duo’s immaculate Rosetta (1999), Sandra’s glowing and unwavering empathy towards those who stand in opposition to her is the crux of her character and the streamlined grace that runs through this humbled marvel of a film.
The Dardenne brothers have always been proponents of a reserved, human-driven sense of moral philosophy. Their films are broadly humanistic, always about working-class folk that drive against the blue-collar hero routine. Raw despondency leaks through the generally positive aspects of humanity involved with their characters, often asked to sacrifice a large part of their life in order to live up to “doing the right thing”. They’re political in the sense that they’re about issues typically involving poor protagonists, but subvert visual alliance to any political body or agenda.
The most unsettling element of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (which is, by any metric, a deeply discomfiting film) is its plausibility. The film has a clinical approach that underlines how possible its central crisis is and how powerless we would be to stop it. The film has a global scope and an all-star cast, but what resonates most is the idea that this could happen. Anywhere. Anytime. To any one of us.
The Immigrant, set in the dusty landscape of 1920s Manhattan, focuses on young Polish immigrant Ewa (Marion Cotillard). She’s separated from her sick sister at Ellis Island. After being denied from her uncle and struggling to raise money for her sister’s medical bills, Ewa finds herself at the doorstep of shady burlesque manager Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix), who grows fond of her innocence.