‘Two Days, One Night’ implores ‘just ask’

“Two Days, One Night” (“Deux jours, une nuit”) (2014). Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salée, Baptiste Sornin, Timur Magomedgadzhiev, Christelle Cornil, Serge Koto, Olivier Gourmet, Yoann Zimmer, Philippe Jeusette. Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. Screenplay: Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. Web site. Trailer.

We’re all no doubt familiar with the expression “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Meritorious ideas, as good as they might be, unfortunately often languish as untapped, unmaterialized potential, simply because no steps are taken to bring them into being. And, ironically enough, in many cases, those undertakings could easily get their starts through the simple act of asking to make them manifest. Such is the focus of the dramatic new release, “Two Days, One Night” (“Deux jours, une nuit”).

Sandra Bya (Marion Cotillard) feels like giving up. Having recently returned to her job at a Belgian solar panel manufacturer after being on medical leave to treat depression, Sandra learns that company management discovered during her absence that the business could get along without her. So, faced with the need to cut operating costs, the owner, Monsieur Dumont (Baptiste Sornin), gives his employees a choice – allow Sandra to stay on as an employee or be willing to forfeit their annual bonuses. The choice is put to a vote, and the employees overwhelmingly opt in favor of their bonuses. Given her fragile state of mind, Sandra is devastated by the news, especially since she and her husband, Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), desperately need the money from her job to keep their home. With the announcement coming late on a Friday afternoon, it’s a rather demoralizing end to the workweek.

But all may not be lost. Sandra soon learns from one of her supportive co-workers, Juliette (Catherine Salée), that the vote was unfairly influenced by one of the company’s managers, Jean-Marc (Olivier Gourmet). With that revelation, Sandra and Juliette hastily meet with M. Dumont to plead their case. When he learns that his manager may have mischaracterized the nature of the choice being presented to his employees, M. Dumont agrees to allow a new vote the following Monday morning. That decision thus provides Sandra with an opportunity to hold on to her job, but she has something important to do first: Over the upcoming weekend, she must convince her co-workers to vote in favor of her retention, a plan enthusiastically encouraged by Juliette and Manu. However, given Sandra’s emotional state, coupled with the realization that she’ll need to sway at least 9 of her 16 colleagues, the task seems overwhelming.

Sandra reluctantly agrees to take up the challenge. She thus embarks on a weekend of campaigning for her job, meeting with each of her co-workers one on one. It’s an undertaking full of highs and lows, depending on what her peers say they’ll do. At times she feels like giving up, especially when her request is turned down or when she’s unable to contact her co-workers at home. But then there are pleasant surprises as well, such as when she receives unexpected support from peers who initially voted against her. How everything turns out ultimately depends on how effectively she makes her case before that fateful Monday morning ballot. And, even then, the outcome holds the potential to defy expectations, with more surprises surfacing that present additional new choices – for Sandra herself.

As those who practice conscious creation know, our beliefs determine the outcomes we experience, and that’s just as true for Sandra as it is for anyone else. When she initially considers the task of lobbying her co-workers, she believes the venture is hopeless, that she won’t be able to convince enough of her peers to vote in her favor. So is it any wonder, then, that the first few contacts she makes are met with disappointment? The expectation she puts forth, based on the beliefs she holds, gets fulfilled with remarkable fidelity. Clearly, if she wants a different result, she’ll have to change the intents involved.

Sandra’s negative outlook regarding this particular task most likely has its roots in the core beliefs she holds about the nature of her prevailing reality. To use a computer metaphor, this endeavor is just one of many “applications” running on the underlying “operating system” of her consciousness. As someone with a tendency to hold a depressed view of life, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the existence she experiences is right in line with such thinking. This is apparent not only in her attitude toward the task of vying for her job, but, in some respects, it’s also visible in her relationship with Manu, which has clearly been strained by her emotional state in recent months. Again, if she wishes to alter the tenor of her reality – in all its permutations – she’ll need to adjust her beliefs, and this time she’ll need to do it at the core level, not just with regard to any of the particular milieus of her life.

So why is Sandra depressed at the core level? And why does she believe her cause is hopeless? That’s hard to say. While the specifics of Sandra’s situation and background are never really discussed in the film, in many instances, those who embrace this state of mind often do so as a result of previous disappointing experiences. The impact of those incidents can be so strong that it causes the formation of beliefs that become ingrained in our consciousness, setting up an internal paradigm that becomes self-perpetuating. The more experiences we create that validate those beliefs, the more galvanized we become in them, leading to the manifestation of ever more experiences in line with such notions. It’s almost a sort of metaphysical tape loop that becomes established and replays continually – that is, until we intentionally click the “stop” button and put in a new tape. That’s the task that Sandra – or anyone else similarly situated – is faced with if she (or they) ever hope for things to change.

In changing her circumstances, one of the significant hurdles Sandra needs to overcome is being willing to ask for what she wants. Her reluctance to do so, again, may be based on previous experience; if she’s been disappointed on this front in the past, she might be tempted to say to herself, “Why bother making the effort?” Her beliefs regarding fear of rejection may be significant enough to keep her from pursuing any of her requests. And this could be especially true in light of the perceived magnitude of the task at hand.

However, as conscious creation maintains, all probabilities are available to us for potential materialization at any given moment, including those that we have historically viewed as improbable. So, to counter what we may have traditionally seen as unlikely, we might be able to achieve success by first envisioning the result we have in mind and then taking action to bring it into being through the simple act of just asking for it.

The act of asking can occur by merely putting the thought out to the Universe or, preferably, by actually verbalizing the request, particularly to those in a position to help make it possible. Giving life to the intent in this way significantly promotes its likelihood of manifestation, a gesture that can prove highly beneficial when charting a new course. Sandra gets her shot at this by embarking on her weekend campaign effort; we can only hope she has enough confidence in her request (and in the beliefs underlying it) to bring about the result she desires.

Interestingly, though, as we wend our way through such ambitious undertakings, we may find that the originally desired outcomes change over time. Somewhat surprisingly, when we reach the end of the road of a particular journey, we may very well ask ourselves, “Do we still want this?” That’s because such personal odysseys can reveal new things to us about our hopes, dreams and aspirations, as well as previously unknown aspects of ourselves, all of which lead to redefining the expectations we seek to realize.

This kind of personal evolution is part and parcel of the conscious creation process, which maintains that we’re all in a constant state of becoming. When such instances occur, we would be wise to honor those changes of heart, for they reflect our true inner being, the qualities that characterize us as the new individuals we have become through the growth and change of our beliefs and consciousness. The question, of course, is, “Will we?” Those are just the sorts of choices Sandra may face for herself after her own extraordinary journey.

Unfortunately, as effectively as this film addresses the foregoing sentiments, as a work of cinema, the production is hampered by execution issues that prevent it from measuring up as well as it might have. Given the nature of Sandra’s task, the narrative becomes somewhat repetitive (and a little dull) at times; the same essential scenario recurs in each of Sandra’s encounters with co-workers, and, even though the outcomes of those meetings differ, the setup is more or less identical in each case. The film also includes a lot of inconsequential filler between these sequences, material that amounts to little more than cinematic padding to fill out a story that, even with such celluloid ballast, still has a relatively short runtime of 95 minutes. What’s more, some of the plot developments are fairly implausible, raising credibility issues about the validity of the overall story line.

For her efforts, Marion Cotillard earned an Oscar nod and a Critics Choice Award nomination for best lead actress, honors that I believe are somewhat ill considered. While the protagonist turns in a capable performance, I believe the accolades she’s received are overrated. The performances by most of the supporting cast are rather underwhelming, too, with many characters coming off as fairly wooden.

Still, despite these shortcomings, the film seems to have resonated with voters in this year’s awards competitions. In addition to the recognition Cotillard has received, the film itself was named a Critics Choice Award nominee as best foreign language film and a Palme d’Or candidate at the Cannes Film Festival, the event’s highest honor. The picture is currently playing in limited run, primarily at theaters specializing in independent and foreign films.

The act of asking may seem intimidating, perhaps even “unnatural,” to some of us. However, if we never avail ourselves of it and what it affords, we may miss out on opportunities to realize dreams and even to further our own personal growth. With that in mind, then, we should look to make friends with this practice and pursue it whenever necessary, especially in those circumstances where it seems particularly difficult. Only by pushing our personal envelopes will we see seemingly unattainable outcomes being reached.

And to think those results might arise from something as simple as posing a question.

Copyright © 2015, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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