Days And Clouds

Days And Clouds


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Given the severity of the current recession, it's surprising that there have been so few films commenting on it, at least at the level of its effect on personal relationships. True, box office takings are going up largely because people want escapism, but art still has a role to play in helping us get our bearings. Days And Clouds takes a premise that will be all too easy for many viewers to identify with at the moment, building on it to develop the complex story of a relationship coming apart at the seams.

Elsa and Michele have been married for more than 20 years. They have a grown-up daughter, Alice, who part-owns a restaurant business, and they enjoy a comfortable life in their elegant urban apartment, dining out with friends on a frequent basis and taking trips across the bay in their boat. Michele prides himself on the fact his wife doesn't have to work for a living, instead enjoying voluntary work restoring a fresco in an ancient house. He's happy working for the business he helped to found, but when a dispute leads to him losing his job there, everything starts falling apart.

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It's not easy finding a job when you're middle aged and highly skilled. It's not easy maintaining a comfortable middle-class standard of living without one. For Michele and Elsa, this is complicated further by an overwhelming sense of shame. It takes a long time even for Michele to tell her what has happened, and afterwards their facade of 'respectable' life becomes ever more complicated as they are forced to make compromises to get by. Supposed friends abandon them and their own emotional retreat destroys other, genuine friendships.

Elsa keeps her chin up. She finds temporary jobs, discovers she's good at them, and gradually attains a sense of independence she never had before. But this just makes things harder for Michele, whose feelings of uselessness are driving him into depression, and the strain on their relationship gradually reaches breaking point.

Acutely observed and compellingly told, this brave story takes on a subject we may all have been avoiding because of our share in Elsa and Michele's shame - a sense that this is an issue we don't want to think about. Days And Clouds is a deeply depressing film to watch, but ultimately it conveys a message of hope, as its protagonists discover there is more to their lives and their relationship with the world than can be define by their economic status. Viewers might argue that there are many people harder hit by the recession than this couple who have so many advantages to start with, but this isn't a film about practical struggles so much as it is about emotional desperation, and it's impossible not to feel sympathy when watching it.

As Michele, Antonio Albanese turns in a heart-rending performance, convincing as the forthright, sometimes bullying manager and as the fragile child-like wreck he becomes. In lesser hands his story might have attracted mockery, but Albanese effortlessly carries the audience with him. Margherita Buy's restrained distress as Elsa complements this perfectly, and there is also a fine performance from Alba Rohrwacher, one of Italy's most promising young actresses, as Alice.

Days And Clouds is hard to watch, but many people facing similar situations will ultimately find it helpful, whilst others will find that it helps them to understand what's happening to people they know. It's a superb example of cinema functioning as socially vital art.

Reviewed on: 18 Apr 2009
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A middle-aged couple reach crisis point after the husband loses his job with a company he helped found.

Director: Silvio Soldini

Writer: Doriana Leondeff, Francesco Piccolo, Federica Pontremoli, Silvio Soldini

Starring: Margherita Buy, Antonio Albanese, Giuseppe Battiston, Alba Rohrwacher, Carla Signoris, Fabio Troiano, Paolo Sassanelli, Arnaldo Ninchi, Teco Celio, Antonio Carlo Francini

Year: 2007

Runtime: 115 minutes

Country: Italy, Switzerland


Italian 2009

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