Marion Cotillard‘s performance is one of the primary draws for the powerful drama “Two Days, One Night,” which premieres on October 5 at the New York Film Festival and opens in limited release on December 24, but it’s also Belgium’s Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film. Can it score bids in that race as well as Best Actress?
Belgium has never won the Foreign Film Oscar, despite seven previous nominations, most recently for “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” which lost last year’s prize to Italy’s “The Great Beauty.” “Two Days” is written and directed by brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, who have never contended at the Oscars despite abundant international acclaim for their work.
For Cotillard, it actually hasn’t been that long since she won her Oscar for “La Vie en Rose” (2007) – just seven years. Plenty of actors go much longer between nominations, and Cotillard has certainly proven herself with a string of successful roles since then, but she seems to have been on the cusp of more Oscar attention several times since her breakthrough, which makes it feel like she’s been out of the academy spotlight longer than she has. Will this be the year of her Oscars comeback, or perhaps another near-miss?
Cotillard stars as Sandra, an employee at a solar-energy plant who has been put in an impossible position. After taking a leave of absence to recover from depression, she learns that her coworkers have voted to lay her off in exchange for a substantial cash bonus. She appeals the decision and is granted a new vote, which means she must visit her colleagues over the weekend to ask them to sacrifice their bonuses for the sake of her job.
The film extends sympathy to almost all its characters. Cotillard feels humiliated as she makes the journey from one coworker to the next. But along the way, we gain insight not only into her circumstances, but theirs as well, so the heart of the story is not just her fight for her livelihood, but also her employers’ decision to pit worker against worker.
But Cotillard is certainly the film’s driving force, and she has the benefit of a role that could appeal to awards voters’ sense of social justice, not only as a struggling working-class woman, but as a sufferer of mental illness; still fragile after her depression, the very process of fighting for her job could kill her.
“Two Days” premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival, where the film and Cotillard’s performance earned rave reviews. According to David Rooney (Hollywood Reporter), Cotillard plays her role “with piercing emotional transparency.” Scott Foundas (Variety) called the film a “powerhouse” and said the actress “disappears so fully into Sandra that she becomes inseparable from the rest of the company.” Eric Kohn (Indiewire) thinks the film is “mesmerizing” and represents Cotillard’s “best work since ‘La Vie en Rose.'”
Cotillard also had strong reviews for her role as an amputee in “Rust and Bone” in 2012, but she wasn’t able to capitalize at the Oscars, despite nominations at SAG, BAFTA, and the Golden Globes. She also missed out on a bid for “Nine”; she earned a Globe nod for that as well, but it was her co-star Penelope Cruz who was nominated by the academy.
Since “La Vie,” she has also appeared in noteworthy projects like “Contagion” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” as well as Best Picture nominees “Midnight in Paris” and “Inception,” but no nominations materialized from those either.
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