No one looked forward with more anticipation than I when I saw the post card with Marion Cotillard’s doleful face advertizing her next film. I took two and used one as a bookmark and set one in a place of prominence near my calendar. The film’s premise was so intriguing and so uncapitalistic and communal in theme that I knew I was going to love it. Now, woe is me. This film did not work even with a masterful performance by one of my favorite actresses and a storyline that should have opened up debate on what is central to our lives. A greater understanding of depression and a deeper empathy for this suffering would have been a bonus. This film could have been great.
Instead of philosophical debate or intellectual questionings or even fresh insight being stimulated, I found myself bored with the straightforwardness of following Sandra ( Cotillard) ringing doorbells and phoning co-workers in an attempt to retain her factory job. So bored in fact that my mind wandered to her various bra strap colors. I was so disappointed in this film that I wished to “take to bed”,too.
The script details may have been at fault. Never did this family seem like they were “nickeled and dimed” or going on the dole. Purchasing bottled water and ice cream cones, buying sandwiches for her children’s school picnic, using laptops and cell phones with abandon, baking fruit tarts and standing in her bathroom amongst products galore never weighed in as desperate. Her children were bright and helpful,her husband concerned and working, extended family and friends apparent and supportive.
Sandra ‘s depression is being treated with Xanax. In one scene, we hear her pop plastic packaging endlessly as one by one these pills are freed to do their damage. On hearing from her husband that another colleague had agreed to support her, she confesses her overdose. In the hospital, she asks for food and when a tray is immediately delivered, she chooses to drink only the soup. Why aren’t we made to root for this woman more ? Could she make other choices like look for another job? When she does salvage half of the 16 votes needed for her reinstatement, she is back where she started. Another Sisyphus myth to ponder?
The award winning Belgian brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne may not be at fault. Maybe Belgian’s poor are the U.S.’s middle class. Certainly, the question of why we let an unbridled system control us is a question central to my core. Somehow the guilt felt by half of Sandra’s co workers seems less brutal than the responses I hear too often from our political parties.I wanted to love this film,but in its foreign realism it did not touch my mind or my heart.Sandra has it pretty good.