Before it was the name of an independent trade union in Communist Poland, it was the ethic that undergirds all unionism. Put in the words most often associated with the Industrial Workers of the World (colloquially known as the Wobblies), a radical American union most active in the early 1900s (although still around today): An injury to one is an injury to all.
A lack of solidarity at a small solar panels manufacturing firm in Belgium is the act that sets in motion TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT, a superb drama by Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Oscar winning actress Marion Cotillard plays Sandra, a wife and mother who has been on sick leave from work while she battles depression. As she prepares to return she finds out that 14 out of 16 of her fellow workers, when presented with a choice to receive their promised 1,000-euro bonus or lay her off, have voted her out of a job.
But Juliette—a friendly co-worker who was one of the two who voted to save Sandra’s job—has found out that the foreman interfered in the vote by telling some workers their own jobs might be at risk if they didn’t vote for the bonus. She prevails upon Dumont, the owner of the firm, to allow a re-vote on Monday.
It is up to Juliette but more particularly Manu, Sandra’s husband, to encourage Sandra to visit each one of her co-workers over the weekend and lobby them to allow her to keep her job.
Cotillard is a glamorous star but she thoroughly inhabits the role of Sandra, projecting an intense vulnerability. The film is most certainly a commentary on the struggles of workers in the contemporary economy but in no ways a polemic. In Two Days, One Night, the Dardenne brothers have crafted a riveting drama in which even the bit characters—Sandra’s fellow Solwal workers—feel fully realized.