Marion Cotillard has been on sick leave with the depression, returns to her solar-panel factory where the boss has decided that they got along just fine without her, so he’s eliminating her job and giving everyone a bonus. If she can convince half of ’em to give up their bonus over the weekend, she gets her job back. Cruel setup, and she’s not up for the task, decides to overdose on sleeping pills instead, but then her husband (Fabrizio Rongione of half their other films) and a couple sympathetic coworkers help get her back on track.
Those Dardennes keep the pace moving, don’t follow-cam the back of Marion’s head for extended periods like they did the star of L’Enfant. Overall more believable that the earlier film too, all conversational realism. Ending is a win for Marion’s self-esteem, at least. She’s a vote short, so the boss, impressed by the effort, offers to give her the job of an immigrant coworker whose contract is up for renewal, and she takes the high road and refuses, says she’ll find a job elsewhere.
If the Dardennes’ last film, The Kid with a Bike, was their modern-day reworking of Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist classic Bicycle Thieves, consider this their Umberto D. It’s a film about the dignity that meaningful work confers; and the way in which an economic downturn can effect other equally ruinous slumps, both social and emotional.
The question or dilemma posed in the film is the same as the other [Dardenne] films, in essence. Someone has been ostracized, excluded, or forcefully removed from the community, and is trying to re-enter. The moral dilemma is not hers initially, but it falls to the others. In the end, it’s a similar situation, no more or less urgent, but complicated by new forms of labor.