Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. Belgium/France/Italy, 2014. Les Films du Fleuve, Archipel 35, BIM Distribuzione, Eyeworks, France 2 Cinéma, Radio Télévision Belge Francophone, Belgacom, Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, VOO, Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds, Eurimages, Canal+, Ciné+, France Télévisions, La Wallonie, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, Casa Kafka Pictures, Casa Kafka Pictures Movie Tax Shelter Empowered by Belfius, Cinéfinance Tax Shelter, MEDIA Programme of the European Union. Screenplay by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne. Cinematography by Alain Marcoen. Produced by Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by Academy Awards 2014. Cannes Film Festival 2014. National Board of Review Awards 2014. New York Film Critics Awards 2014. Toronto International Film Festival 2014.
Marion Cotillard is prepared to go back to work after being on sick leave for depression, but is informed of a devastating change at the factory where she works. Her fellow employees have been given the choice of either receiving a huge annual bonus or keeping her on staff, and have been asked to vote one way or the other. Frustrated between her self-doubt and her need to stay employed for the sake of her family, Cotillard spends a weekend visiting all of her co-workers and asking them to vote in her favour, struggling the whole time to maintain her resolve, with results spinning a number of different directions. In the brilliantly tight plot created by the always reliable Dardennes brothers, Cotillard is judged, sympathized with, attacked and avoided by a number of people who show a range of human reactions to a genuinely sympathetic situation. She is, after all, not the only person who is struggling financially, and she herself admits that the choice would not be easy for her either. The filmmakers do a marvelous job of showing these complicated situations without being unfairly critical of their subjects. The fascination with the varying responses provides the key basis of this film, and the brilliance is in the carefully constructed emotional landscape upon which it plays, scoring the higher and lower conflict scenes with perfect balance and delicacy before the gorgeous conclusion. Cotillard is, as always, a revelation of sympathy and tenderness, fiery and yet vulnerable, and the Dardennes compromise nothing in their risk of having such a huge movie star performing in their no-frills style production.