Solidarity beyond a retweet – are you up for it?
It’s not that hard to display solidarity as long as you’re at a safe distance from the object of your sympathy. You can retweet the call for help from someone in distress, you can show them support by liking them at Facebook. You can run long discussions about what society needs to do to even out the odds for people who are born under economically vastly different circumstances. It’s so pleasant to participate in this kind of actions. It makes you feel good about yourself. And it doesn’t cost you a penny.
But what if solidarity became a real thing, not an issue for a vague collective, but something that is required by you, personally? Imagine that someone asked you to refrain from a raise of salary so that someone else who needs it as well, or better, would get it instead. How would you react?
This is the theme of Two Days, One Night, which is the latest movie by the Dardenne brothers. Marion Cotillard plays a young woman, Sandra, who recently has gone through a depression, which has kept her away from work. Now she’s back, but during her absence the employer has found out that they could do without her as long as her colleagues work some overtime. The workers have been given a choice: Either Sandra is fired and everyone else will get a bonus salary. Or Sandra is allowed to keep her job and they won’t get anything extra. The choice is theirs. As the movie begins, there’s already been a voting, where the outcome was that Sandra would be fired. Because of some issue with the voting, it’s been decided that she’ll be given a second chance. A new voting will take place. And we get to follow Sandra as she tries to persuade her colleagues to vote differently this time.
This is a concept that unavoidably makes you think of 12 Angry Men, where also a man with only words as his tool tried to talk an entire group over to change their unanimous decision. What makes it different is that it doesn’t take place in a closed room where the group is assembled. Since it takes place during a weekend, Sandra has to look them up one by one in their homes, confronting them individually. Another difference is that Sandra isn’t particularly eloquent in the way she presents her case. She just asks everyone pretty upfront to let her stay and refrain from the bonus and leaves the choice to them.
Whether Sandra succeeds or not is in the spoiler territory, so we won’t go there. But I can say as much that it was surprisingly exciting to follow her in her mission. You could easily imagine that it would be a little bit repetitive to watch someone putting the same question over and over again to different people. But somehow it never gets dull; you’re always curious about what the response of the next person will be.
In this way it reminds of the last Dardenne movie I watched, The Kid with a Bike. At a quick glance, both of the movies are small and quiet. But at the same time they’re full of big human issues, in this case about your obligations as a human being towards yourself and your closest family and towards others. How much do we need? At which point is it time to share? When is not sharing an option? It raises all those questions, but refrains from providing all the answers and refrains from getting preachy, examining the choices of the individual from a morale standpoint rather than a political. It’s only 95 minutes long, but still manages to provide a lot of food for thought.
Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, une nuit, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, 2014) My rating : 4/5