Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.
Sandra Bya, a young working class mother battling severe depression has one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their annual bonus in order to save her job. Well known for their naturalistic films, the Dardenne brothers have produced yet another gritty tale of the highs and lows of working class Belgian life. Marion Cotillard puts on a convincing performance as the emotionally broken Sandra, supported by her husband Manu, played by Dardenne regular Fabrizio Rongione.
The film builds slow burn suspense as we follow Sandra in her quest to speak to each of her colleagues individually and persuade them to vote for her in the upcoming secret ballot. She experiences various setbacks along the way as some of her colleagues are understandably more concerned for their own welfare. When she discovers that heartless foreman Jean-Marc has been lobbying against her, influencing workers, using scare tactics she almost gives up all hope of overcoming her fight for both her job and her mental well-being.
The simplistic story may not appeal to all audiences, particularly those seeking action or dramatic twists but it has to be said that the sheer realism is captivating and this encourages the audience to invest in Sandra as the main character, willing her to succeed. As the film draws to a close and Sandra learns the result of the ballot we see great strength in her character, as she develops the courage to take control of the situation.
Overall, this is a gripping story which urges the audience to engage with the issue of depression and its effects. At the end of the film, the fight for Sandra’s job has almost become irrelevant as we reach the understanding that perhaps the main purpose of her pursuit was to battle her illness in the hope of regaining control of her life.
Review by Kerri Liddell
Directed By: Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne
Starring: Marion Cotillard and Fabrizio Rongione