Belgian filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (The Kid With a Bike) put their low-key, but no less devastating, spin on the wobbly European economy in this lean drama. Sandra (Marion Cotillard) learns that her co-workers have voted to eliminate her job — she has been on medical leave for depression — thus guaranteeing themselves a bonus of 1,000 euros. Sandra appeals to management, and a second vote is scheduled for Monday. That leaves her the weekend to personally contact her 16 co-workers and convince them, in uncomfortable face-to-face encounters, to give up the bonus.
Over the course of these visits, the fragile state of the middle class is laid bare, as is the unpleasant truth about how even a relatively small amount of money can affect relationships presumed to be mutually supportive. But the real misery is saved for Sandra, who must fight through her own hopelessness and guilt simply to summon the energy to save her job, identity and even her family. Cotillard, in an Academy Award-nominated performance, delivers a naturalistic portrayal that, like Sandra's own jagged emotional state, finds moments ranging from infuriating and heartbreaking to even heartwarming, in one woman's struggle to reclaim herself.