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Georges and Anne are an octogenarian couple. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in Britain with her family. One day, Anne has a stroke, and the couple's bond of love is severely tested.
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
The original idea for the film came in the early 2000s, when the Dardenne brothers read about a real-life case in a big French factory. There was a worker whose production output wasn't good enough for the other workers to get their bonuses, so that person was let go. They heard about similar cases in Belgium, Italy and USA, and they all raised the question of solidarity. See more »
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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