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.
Put in charge of his young son, Alain leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Alain's bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident.
In a Russian coastal town, Kolya is forced to fight the corrupt mayor when he is told that his house will be demolished. He recruits a lawyer friend to help, but the man's arrival brings further misfortune for Kolya and his family.
Sokol and Lorna, two Albanian emigrants in Belgium, dream of leaving their dreary jobs to set up a snack bar. They need money, and a permanent resident status. Claudy is a junkie - he needs... See full summary »
1921. An innocent immigrant woman is tricked into a life of burlesque and vaudeville until a dazzling magician tries to save her and reunite her with her sister who is being held in the confines of Ellis Island.
Sandra Bya, married with two children, has been off work from her job at Solwal on medical leave for depression. During her absence from work, her boss, M. Dumont, on the suggestion of her immediate supervisor, the shop foreman Jean-Marc, figures that her section of the company can function with sixteen people working full time with a bit of overtime instead of seventeen with no overtime, that seventeenth person being Sandra. Because of the global competition the company faces, Dumont decides the company can only finance the annual bonuses for those sixteen employees, which are EUR1,000 per person, or Sandra's job, leaving the decision to those sixteen. On a Friday near the end of her medical leave, Sandra learns of this situation from her friend and co-worker Juliette after the "show of hands" vote is held, the result a 13-3 decision for the bonuses over Sandra's job. Because Juliette knows Jean-Marc, who is determined to get rid of Sandra, influenced the vote by scare mongering ... Written by
Hello? I was resting. Just a second. I have to get my tart out. I've made a tart for the kids. Yes, why? Tell me why. No. No, Juliette. No.
[hangs off the phone]
You mustn't cry.
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"A woman is like a tea bag you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water." - Eleanor Roosevelt
How many of us would fight as hard as Sandra (Marion Cotillard) to keep her job? I suppose we would try to keep it, but she has to convince a majority out of 16 fellow workers to vote her employment rather than their 1000 Euros bonuses. She journeys in this intense film like some mythical mariner to each island person to convince that they should vote for her.
Not only does Sandra experience a heavy dose of humiliation by virtually begging to be kept as an employee, she also has to deal with her insecurity and the accompanying dependence on drugs to help her through this challenge and her recent depression. The film's limitation is the repetition for each co-worker she visits, as if they just repeat the script for each visit. Even when one segment turns violent, it's as if writer/directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne injected action in an otherwise flat line of activity. Overall, the Dardennes further their thematic interest in socialistic causes.
What elevates this drama into Oscar consideration is Cotillard, dressed not like a movie star (see La Vie en Rose and Midnight in Paris) but a working girl, little makeup accompanied by sleeveless tees and serviceable jeans. Make no mistake; she still is one of the world's most attractive actresses, my current fav. However, here she is believable as a vulnerable mother grasping for her job that the family desperately needs to survive.
Yes, although she has a contributing husband, Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), he is unusually supportive, almost to a fault. Yet, dramatically, he's positioned well to keep her in the forefront. She's not Sally Field's Norma Rae, who fights for a union in her textile mill, because Sandra's cause is personal in the 21st century, where Norma's in the '70's is about collectivism. Both women, however, have an intelligence and wit to get them through. As far as I'm concerned, that's part of what feminism is about.
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