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‘Two Days, One Night’ takes a simple, nerve-wracking situation and makes it completely, achingly human, thanks in large part to Marion Cotillard’s finely tuned Oscar-nominated performance.

Still, the atmosphere wholly belongs to the Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, the writing-directing team most recently responsible for “The Kid with a Bike.” The Dardenne’s clear-eyed, real-feel approach to cinema has never been more effective.

The problem is simple. Sandra (Cotillard), a young Belgian mother, will be laid off from her factory job unless she can convince a majority of her 16 co-workers to give up a 1,000-euro bonus they have coming.

At first Sandra despairs, but her husband (Fabrizio Rongione) and a co-worker encourage her to approach her fellow workers individually over the weekend and ask them to waive their bonuses. Sandra is embarrassed by the thought, but without her salary, the couple won’t be able to pay their mortgage.

So the film follows Sandra from one employee’s house to the next. She has until Monday morning to convince nine people. And even then, the seven people who don’t vote for her will resent her for taking away their bonuses.

Understand, these are not wealthy people. Many are working at second jobs to support their families when she visits them. A thousand euros is a lot of money.

The situation becomes more complex when it turns out Sandra has just returned to work after being treated for depression, a state she’s still struggling with.

But she pushes on, encouraged by supporters while understanding those who say no. “Two Days” is a film of universal economic and personal realities and hard choices in hard times. It breathes in sadness, hope and frustration, yet somehow finds perseverance.

TLong@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/toomuchTomLong

‘Two Days, One Night’

GRADE: B+

Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic elements

Running time: 95 minutes

“Two Days, One Night” (PG-13) Marion Cotillard stars in this clear-eyed, real-feel film in which a factory worker has to convince fellow workers to waive a large bonus so she can keep her job. (95 minutes) GRADE: B+

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