MUBI is a streaming service catering to cinephiles who believe in quality over quantity. Each day, MUBI adds a new film to its library, where it will stay for 30 days, after which it circulates out and gives room for another new entry. Throughout 2018, we will highlight one MUBI movie per month to help illustrate the catalog’s breadth and importance.
You may remember Two Days, One Night from its Oscar nomination at the 2015 Academy Awards. It had infamously shown in only five United States theaters when the nominations were announced, making the film a favorite example among Academy detractors of the perceived disconnect between the Academy’s tastes and the popular accessibility of the films they choose to honor. It was a shame, then, that the film remained relatively obscure, not netting a win for lead actress Marion Cotillard, and not receiving any sort of U.S. digital or home video release until months after the awards were still on people’s minds. But the film is now available on MUBI, which is as good a reason as any to turn a few of you on to this overlooked masterpiece.
Sandra Bya (Cotillard) is a factory worker as a solar panel plant who had a nervous breakdown and was forced to take time off of work. Just as she is about to return to the job, the management decides that they don’t want her anymore, seeing as the plant has run just fine without her. But rather than dismiss her outright, the management gives her co-workers a choice: vote to keep their year-end bonuses, or let their bonuses go toward paying Sandra’s salary. The vote to keep Sandra fails by a wide margin, but due to apparent pressure from a vindictive foreman, Sandra convinces the management to conduct a new, secret ballot after the weekend. Now it is Sandra’s task to visit each of her co-workers and ask them to stand beside her and help her keep her job.
The set-up for this film is, in a word, genius. Watching Sandra go from co-worker to co-worker, figurative hat in hand, and ask for them to help her keep her job is difficult to watch. Her family will seriously struggle to make ends meet without her job, but so many of her co-workers are also relying on their bonuses. Each of them has their own struggles that become apparent in the snapshots of their lives we see through Sandra’s visits, and to give up their bonuses would be a hardship that only some seem to be able to realistically do. None of these blue collar workers are at fault for the circumstance; it is the management that is the real villain, and none of them are empowered enough to fight back against it.
What really brings the film to greatness, though, is Cotillard’s stellar performance. Sandra is a woman who has just come out of a period of extreme mental instability, and just as she is feeling recovered enough to start being a productive human being again, this tragedy befalls her. Cotillard gives this role her all, as she pops Xanax before every encounter, is demure and embarrassed to ask for what she perceives as pity and charity, and feels guilty for putting her co-workers in such a strained and tenuous position. The perpetual brink of relapse into depressive catatonia is ever present, and Cotillard truly demonstrates her skills as one of the best actresses working today.
Two Days, One Night is a film that even many die-hard Oscar aficionados may have forgotten about, but a film does not stop being excellent once the Oscar buzz dies down. This is a fantastic piece of incredibly human and relatable filmmaking, and it would be a shame to miss out on it. Fortunately, you can watch Two Days, One Night right here!