Two Days, One Night

Two Days, One Night

I spent most of 2011 trying not to kill myself. I remember quite clearly--it still brings tears to my eyes--one of the crucial moments of uplift that carried me through. My friend David, a man who is the world to me, a brother and a confidant, was driving me to go out to eat (we do this a lot), and it had been a while since we had last done so. And he's just talking, the way he does (which often involves endearingly mangling the English language, but this is neither here nor there, it's just one of my favorite things about him), and he talked about someone saying something stupid. And he said, unbidden, perhaps not even knowing I was depressed, definitely just something he wanted to tell me, he told me that he wished I had been there. He said he wished I had been there because he knew I would have found the right words to tell this person off for whatever wrong-headedness they had otherwise gotten away with.

And weirdly enough, in that moment, I remembered that I was capable of something. It crashed down on me, this wave of self-worth that I had forgotten about in the fog of suicidal compulsion and skin-searing self-loathing, it came down on me and filled me up. For a moment, the fog lifted, and I almost broke down, because I remembered that I was capable of standing up for myself (and others), and more, that I had once felt like my self was something worth standing up for.

So when Sandra comes face to face with someone who supports her, in the moments when she does, I felt overwhelmed. I know what this is. It's like muscle memory for your own ego. She smiles as she walks away from one of them, this smile that says, "I remember now." I rarely buy into accolades for performances, but that smile is a perfect expression. I am obviously projecting, but the importance of a good performance like this is that it makes that projection seem reasonable. It's so familiar a situation (in some ways) that no matter what Cotillard was thinking this moment meant, I am certain that what it meant was what I think it meant. She (and the filmmakers) have conveyed the hauntingly familiar shackles of depression, and her moment of brief respite takes on the shape of my own experiences.

(This is why it's also always relevant when someone tells these personal stories when reviewing these films. It's why it's important, and why it should be taken as an honor by anyone who makes such films if people do this. Because it's a mark of truly great filmmaking.)

If this were merely an extended metaphor for depression, of the devaluing power of it, of the struggle to prove to oneself one's own worth, of the enfeebling power of others to suggest the depression is right and the empowering energy of others to remind us that it's wrong, if this were merely the story of how the way the world handles the depressed is a labyrinth that forces them to have to fight for their own worth, it would be a perfect film. Somehow, it takes it a step further and combines this with a vicious, no-holds barred critique of capitalism, of employment standards, and of well intentioned management (and ill-intentioned management, but that's almost tautological). I need not belabor how it manages this (everyone else talks about it plenty), but I will note that the degree to which it takes this awakens in me that fierce sense of solidarity that I get when someone is outspokenly anti-capitalist. That it entwines this with the depression narrative without watering down either is remarkable.

March count: 16/30
Country: Belgium

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