This review is for one of the movies on my Most Anticipated of 2014 List. A review was going to be written for every movie on that list seen.
by Jaime Grijalba.
Apparently the Dardennes have been integrating more and more elements to their films, in some sort of reverted evolution (or devolution in some circles) from less to more, as if these filmmakers were actually learning the opposite of what every other filmmaker says about his/her craft (less is more). They are adding incidental music, certain shots that are different from their established, and now in this movie, it’s the first time that they use an international star in one of the roles, even if the protagonist, and it’s also the first time that the main character wasn’t from Belgium, the land and country where all their movies come from and take place (I say this because many people confuse their movies for French, which they are not).
This time the social quandary put together by the Dardennes is about two issues completely different but at the same time they maintain some sort of mutual relation that gives it a depth, that makes this one of the best movies of 2014. One is the whole shebang that’s being promoted in trailers and reviews, about how this woman is being laid off by her boss because her workmates voted to have a bonus because of the extra work they had to do while she was absent, instead of having her back once she was better to come. Now, the other issue is the depression that the woman worker, played by Marion Cotillard (the international star that I talked about earlier), had that is the one that triggered his absence from work. It is at the time when she’s coming out of it and ready to start working (or at least, that’s what she thinks), is that she receives the blow that she’s being laid off because of the decision of the workers she knows. She is given the chance to have a new vote, and that’s when the premise of the film is clear.
While it does follow a certain structure, where Cotillard has to visit every worker that she thinks may vote in her favor, trying to convince the hard workers and those who think that they were friends, there are many moments in which you actually forget that it’s that what’s going on, as the elements are portrayed so far apart at some parts of the movie, that they always seem to come from somewhere else, and every experience is different, and at times a testament to the different personalities and traits as well as political and social experiences that some have. Then, there’s the fact that Marion seems to plunge into depression once again and this time she shows it in every action that she makes, and even if she isn’t begging around for the post that she was taken off, she understand if people want the bonus, but she has her family and her sickness to account for. This is a highly sentimental film, and while it didn’t drive me to tears like some critics have, I still think it’s one that pulls the strings in a good way.
It’s never manipulative and it doesn’t force you to take it the ways that the protagonist says it should be, you are still left with your interpretations, just like the understanding main character. There are some highly tense and at the same time emotional moments that fill you with dread and energy at the same time, it is the struggle of this woman that we see on screen that we feel so much about, it is that thing, those eyes, her figure, her strut as she goes finding new coworkers, it is that figure in the landscape that we feel emotional about, because she is in the middle of a crisis yet, even though it is hard for her, she tries anyway and she finds a way, thanks to those who support her and those who come around her to help.
The final scenes of the movie, once the vote is about to happen, are almost like a war sequence in a costly special effects movie, it leaves you on the edge of your seat, you want to see the battle, but the Dardennes know better, they know what to say and what to not say, what to show and what to not, and while here there’s no clear mystery like in other movies, the movie keeps hiding information, it makes you forget things said, it makes you be patient and at the same time take notes on what’s going on. The Dardennes still work on their style, they are evolving, and while some prefer their older work, I think they are just keeping on, being possibly the most consistent and powerful moviemaking duo of recent times.