January 12, 2009 -- This 2007 Italian-Swiss film, being released next month as part of the film movement collection (http://www.filmmovement.com/) was ahead of its time in its depiction of what has now become a worldwide phenomenon -- families being torn apart by economic pressures. This kind of thing can happen at any time. A man loses his job and cannot easily find another that pays as well. The family can't make the mortgage payments on their house and have to sell. They gradually start losing their possessions and, in their frustration, they turn against each other. This kind of story is happening much more frequently with the economic recession that is affecting much of the world now.
In Italy, Elsa (played by Margherita Buy of La Sconosciuta (The Unknown Woman) is enjoying a great triumph, a successful masters degree presentation on art history in front of a distinguished audience. Little does she know her world is about to be turned upside down. The next morning, hung over from the elaborate party the night before, her husband, Michele (Antonio Albanese) soberly tells her that they are broke. Michele lost his high paying job as a manager in a small company when he lost a battle for power on the board of directors. He's been hiding this fact from his wife for two months so she can finish her degree. They argue over why the proud and stubborn Michele didn't tell his wife about their situation. They are forced to sell their sailboat, then the house, and finally they have to abandon their car when it breaks down. Michele can't find a job that pays anywhere near what he is used to earning and he finally gives up looking for one. Elsa gives up her beloved project uncovering a priceless mural which had been painted over long ago. She takes a job as a secretary in a shipping company, where her boss constantly flirts with her.
Desperate for money, Michele tries motorcycle deliveries, but is spotted by his daughter, Alice (Alba Rohrwacher). He had been trying to keep his poverty a secret from Alice. This spawns another argument. Michele's ego and machismo make it nearly impossible for him to adapt to his new situation. He sinks into depression and self-loathing. He finds relief for a short time by working as a contractor with two of his former employees, but it doesn't last. In the end, he is forced to reconsider his position in life. He may never recover what he had in terms of money and property, but with some effort, he just might be able to salvage what is really important, the love and respect of his wife and daughter.
The acting by the principle cast is excellent and the story is well-constructed. Antonio Albanese displays explosive anger and frustration, but is equally adept playing sorrow and despair. Margherita Buy also plays anger and frustration very well, but is equally adept at showing the fear of losing her financial security and the disorientation of seeing her husband turn into a stranger. This kind of story about a downward financial spiral is all too common these days. Similar dramas are being played out millions of times all over the world and will continue to be for the next few years. Director Silvio Soldini (Pane e tulipani AKA Bread and Tulips) weaves this story together with fine craftsmanship. Production values are solid. This film rates an A.
Also on the same Film Movement DVD is a short animated film, “Course of Life” (Lebenslauf) and a clever, award-winning commercial for Stella Artois Beer (a sponsor of the Film Movement series) called “Devil's Island,” featuring well-known actor Ron Perlman. The DVD also has some short biographies of the director and some of the actors in “Days and Clouds.” For more on the Film Movement series, check out the official Film Movement website.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.