Are you an art-house guru? Are you familiar with the work of Belgian filmmaker brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne? If the answer is no then you’re like me and will come to this film with no expectation. I like Marion Cotillard and like the idea of her – one of France’s most glamorous actresses working today – stripped back in some sort of gritty, kitchen sink drama.
And in the Dardennes brothers, she’s got the perfect sort of directors. This is the type of film that I imagine will wow the critics and have them raving about Marion’s performance which, I’d agree, is an impressive one; nuanced, raw and affecting. But it didn’t grab me, I didn’t engage with the characters. More on that shortly.
The premise of this film is simple. Marion plays working mum Sandra, a woman grappling with depression and faced with the prospect of losing her job so that her coworkers can receive their bonuses. She has two days and one night (i.e. the weekend and the film’s title) to convince them to vote for her to stay and, if they do, give up their bonuses as a result.
With each colleague she visits she tells the same story. Where the film lives or dies, in terms of what you get out of it, is in the reactions she receives from each of her colleagues and how she responds. Each positive meeting gives her a tiny ray of hope, each negative one sends her spiralling back towards depression.
For an actress that can effortlessly do glamour in big budget Hollywood films such as Inception, Midnight in Paris and Public Enemies, to see Marion laid bare in this manner is rather refreshing. That said, her character is tough to like and difficult to engage with on an emotional level.
Her long-suffering husband is where our sympathies probably end up. With each setback she faces she shuts down, blocking off friends and family, expecting the inevitable outcome. The constant rock at her side is her husband Manu, played in a no-nonsense manner by Belgian actor Fabrizio Rongione.
Perhaps this is the sort of film that you need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy. I say enjoy, it’s a sad tale for the most part. Marion, as you’d expect, delivers a thoroughly impressive performance and, if you’re a fan of her work, it’s one you should see. Just be aware of the type of film you’re going to see and you’ll no doubt get something out of it.