ANIMAL will be bringing you continuing coverage from The New York Film Festival, which runs Sep 26 – Oct 12 at Film Society of Lincoln Center. Two Days, One Night plays Sunday, October 5th at 3:00pm and Monday, October 6th at 9:00pm.

It’s hard to explain the power of the films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Just a synopsis makes their work seem very simple, boring even, but when you actually watch a Dardenne movie, it feels like it contains everything you need to know about life.

Every film they make follows the same structure. Working class person tries to do something (get a job, sell their baby). They experience ups and downs trying to achieve their goal. In the end, something unexpected happens and you leave with a lump in your throat.

So it is with Two Days, One Night. Marion Cotillard plays a woman who has recently returned to work from sick leave. While she was gone, her boss realized they could get along without her and has given her co-workers a choice — they can have their Christmas bonus or he can lay off Cotillard.

The rest of the film is comprised of her trying to convince her fellow employees, one by one, to vote in her favor. This is presented in their signature style: handheld camera, natural performances and spare dialogue. You never find yourself saying, “That was an amazing shot” or “She’s a great actress.” It’s more like you leave saying, “I just saw something real happen.”

There’s a familiar joke among film critics — “What did you think of the new Dardennes?” “Yawn, another masterpiece.” Two Days, One Night feels slightly different because it’s their first time working with a recognizable star, but the emotional wallop of its conclusion hits you as hard as always.

CHEAT SHEET: If you don’t manage to get tickets to the NYFF and you need to talk about it in conversation, here’s what to say:

–“The Dardenne Brothers always make the same movie, and it never bothers me.”
–“That chick from Inception is amazing.”