(director/writer: Jean-Pierre Dardenne/Luc Dardenne; cinematographer: Alain Marcoen; editor: Marie-Helene Dozo; cast: Marion Cotillard(Sandra), Fabrizio Rongione (Manu), Catherine Salee (Juliette), Christelle Cornil (Anne), Pili Groyne (Estelle), Simon Caudry, (Maxime), Baptiste Sornin (M. Dumont), Timur Magomedgadzhiev (Timur ), Philippe Jeusette (Yvon), Serge Koto (Alphonse), Olivier Gourmet (Jean-Marc); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Denis Freyd/Jean-Pierre Dardenne/Luc Dardenne; IFC Films; 2014-Belgium-France-Italy-in French and Arabic with English dialogue)

“Slight but socially-aware contemporary political drama regarding Belgium’s working-class.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The acclaimed Belgian filmmaker brothers, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne(“Rosetta”/”The Child“/”The Kid With A Bike”), helm this slight but socially-aware contemporary political drama regarding Belgium’s working-class. The heart-felt film explores the human condition, workplace injustice and how the industrial workers struggle to survive in such a challenging environment.

Sandra (Marion Cotillard) is an emotionally-charged young Belgian mom who is despondent that her fellow workers elected to receive a significant bonus in exchange for her dismissal. The distraught Sandra has the weekend to convince her colleagues to change their mind. Though encouraged by her supportive husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) to fight for her rights, Sandra is insecure and feels hurt by being betrayed by her colleagues. The proud woman wants no pity, and even wonders if hubby’s support is merely out of pity.

The gist of the film is how the anxious Sandra deals individually with each of the 16 factory workers who voted against her to receive a 1,000 Euro bonus, money each family needs. Their frank conversations, with each worker having a different reason for their actions, gives us insight into their thinking and how intimidating the bosses can be.

I found the film more engaging as a one-sided polemical debate on capitalism and the negative effects of free trade on the working-class rather than as a far-reaching character study. A well-crafted drama that certainly has a compassionate view of the workers, and just as importantly presents a legitimate gripe against the system that unfairly keeps the workers down. Maybe it’s the logical simplicity of its message and its genuine sincerity that drew me most to the film and not anything about it that might be deemed fresh or brilliant.

REVIEWED ON 11/18/2014 GRADE: B+