Days and Clouds (Giorni e nuvole)

Robin Clifford 
Days and Clouds (Giorni e nuvole)
Laura Clifford 
Elsa (Margherita Buy) is fulfilling, finally, a lifetime dream to earn her masters degree in art history. Her husband, Michele (Antonio Albanese), has given her the time to reach her goal but has kept some pretty important information from her. Two months before, his business partners ousted him from the company he founded and the couple is nearly penniless. After so many prosperous years, Elsa and Michele must now cop with keeping their very existence alive in "Days and Clouds."

"Bread and Tulips" director Silvio Soldini brings a slice of life story about a couple that has always had the money to indulge such things as Elsa's degree. Michele gave her the time and space the past few years to allow her to study. When he is fired from his own company, he does not want to worry her with fiscal issues and pretends that all is well. What started as an atop-the-clouds kind of day turns into a nightmare when Michele tells Elsa of their pending destitution.

"Days and Clouds" is a terrific character study of two people who must face a life radically different, and more strife-torn than they could have ever expected. At first, things look bad, though not desperate, financially but this changes as the mortgage comes due, bills need to be made and the money reserves dwindle ­ fast. The fiscal problems spawwn other cracks in the couple's facade, as Elsa must sacrifice her hard fought for art historian career to become a telemarketer to pay the bills. It is not enough, though, and former well-to-do businessman Michele is relegated to taking a job as a bicycle courier. In addition, his uninformed of the catastrophe 20-ish daughter Alice (Alba Rohrwacher) sees him doing it. Rock bottom would be a step up for Elsa and Michele.

This tale of the couples emotional and monetary crash and ultimate rebirth is a gripping slice of life film that grabs you at the start and does not let go until 'The End' rolls. Margherita Buy and Antonio Albanese give award worthy performances, making you believe you are watch the fall and rise of the tiny family. Soldini benefits not just from his actors but also from those behind the lens. Techs are rock solid across the board.

"Days and Clouds" is not a crowd pleaser, in the conventional sense, but it is a thoughtful and powerful story that will appeal to mature audience and those who appreciate fine filmmaking. No wonder it received a bunch of nominations by the Italian Academy and two wins. Here is a film that is worth laying out 12 bucks to see it at the theater. I give it an A.

Michele (Antonio Albanese) presents his wife Elsa (Margherita Buy, "The Unknown Woman") a pair of antique earrings in celebration of her achieving her doctorate in art history, but waffles when she mentions the exotic trip they'd planned in celebration.  She's surprised by a packed house in their expansive Genoa apartment and parties all night.  But the next morning brings a months old admission - Michele was forced out of the company he founded with friend Roberto and no longer has an income.  The couple is about to drift into an unforeseen way of life in "Days and Clouds."

With yet another entry in the European trend of movies about job loss, cowriter/director Silvio Soldini makes a leap in filmmaking maturity over 2002's "Bread and Tulips," an uneven effort from the more conventional romantic fantasy genre.  With "Days and Clouds," Soldini explores all the different aspects of a long married couple and the joys and strains put upon them.  There is family life with adult single daughter Alice (Alba Rohrwacher, "My Brother Is an Only Child") and the ex-boyfriend she's gone into the restaurant business with.  Michele approves the ex over her live-in Riki (Fabio Troiano), yet abhors the site of his daughter 'serving' in an 'apron.'  He'll learn differently over the course of the film.  There are the couple's best friends, introduced at a dinner Michele insists on paying for.  No longer on economic footing, Elsa is ashamed and ducks best friend Nadia (Carla Signoris) while Michele becomes friendly with former employees Vito (Giuseppe Battiston, "The Power of the Past") and Salviati (Paolo Sassanelli). Over time the blue collar guys they run into on the docks become the couple's new dinner companions (and the source of gentle comedy).  The couple also forge their own identities as individuals, Elsa working on her passion restoration with no funding while trying to help pay bills as a part time telemarketer, Michele facing reality trying to reenter the job market.

"Days and Clouds" is beautifully written, acted (it won Best Actress and Supporting Actress in Italy's Oscars) and scored (Giovanni Venosta, "Bread and Tulips").  Soldini gets at all the nuances of a marriage of many years in crisis, and, without a typical 'happy' ending where all worries are neatly resolved, wraps with hopeful poetry, a symbol of beauty obscured by time, that
brings his film full circle.


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