For those not in the know, the Dardenne brothers are the Belgian directors who churn out great films with an uncanny, almost boring consistency. Their clear-eyed, naturalistic parables are, as Slate’s Dana Stevens put it, “very stylistically uniform—in essence, they make the same movie over and over, but it’s always good.” Their latest film is Two Days, One Night, a wrenching moral fable that may bag its star, Marion Cotillard, another Oscar.
Cotillard plays Sandra, a Belgian mother who suffers a nervous breakdown and takes temporary leave from her job at a solar-panel factory. In her absence, management sees an opportunity for cost-cutting: They offer large bonuses to the staff if they work slightly longer shifts and make Sandra permanently redundant. In the course of a single weekend, Sandra must convince all 16 colleagues to vote for her continued employment rather than the extra money in their pockets. It’s an ingenious plot, ready-made for the Dardennes’ probing depiction of moral dilemma, and even more ready-made for a big, chewy performance by Cotillard, whose casting may be the most dramatic move the unknown-actor-loving Dardennes have ever made. Two Days, One Night is out Dec. 24.