Days and Clouds (2007) Poster

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8/10
Degeneration of a lifestyle, regeneration of a marriage
Chris Knipp10 June 2008
In this film about work and marriage by 'Bread and Tulips'director Silvio Soldini, a well-off Genoa couple has to face self-image, marriage, and work problems when their financial world crumbles. Right after Elsa (Margherita Buy of The Unknown Woman) passes her graduate exams in art history and her husband and friends give her a big surprise party to celebrate, the truth comes out. Michele (Antonio Albanese) reluctantly reveals to his wife that due to hard times, corporate restructuring, and his own stubbornness he's been pushed out of the firm he co-founded with Roberto (Alberto Giusta) and hasn't been working or receiving a salary for months. They're in debt. Everything has to change now.

First off Elsa is furious at Michele for not telling her all this sooner. His judgment was that knowing would have made it hard for her to finish her graduate work, but now that she has to know, it angers her to have been lied to. Probably he was lying to himself, but he's forgotten that marriage is a partnership.

Neither Elsa nor Michele knows how to adjust. One night they go out to dinner with friends and Michele insists on paying, even though the bill is over $300. Again Elsa is furious. Later, she finds it impossible to speak frankly to her best friend, Nadia (Carla Signoris). It pains her to confront people now that one by one their status symbols are being removed. In the face of loss, there's the typical denial. Everything seems shaky.

Whether they're getting along or not, their beautiful apartment must be sold. Their maid, Daisy, must go to take a full time job, and they have to sell something to raise the money for her severance pay. Elsa has to give up her art restoration project--which was an adjunct to her graduate work and her passion but was unsalaried--and find a part-time job in telemarketing and in the evenings fill in as secretary to a shipping company boss. They haven't told their grown daughter Alice (Alba Rohrwacher) about any of this. Relations with Alice are painful because Michele doesn't approve of Ricky (Fabio Troiano), the boyfriend she lives with. Later he is to get down off his high horse when he learns Ricky's not such a bad guy. For now, they haven't told Alice.

Michele looks for work, but has a hard time accepting offers that are, inevitably, all below what he's been used to. (This is another form of denial.) One day he's desperate to do something, anything. He takes a day job through an employment office delivering packages on a motorbike--and Alice sees him. So she finds out. Alice has previously used the money her parents had given her for university to open a restaurant. It's doing fine, and she works there. Alice is torn between anger at Michele and serious concern for her parents.

Michele has failed to take what turns out to be the best offer he's going to get, so he falls into something utterly humble but somehow satisfying, because it's physical. He does minor rehab work with two of his former employees, Vito (Giuseppe Battiston) and Luciano (Antonio Carlo Francini), who were let go by his firm before he was. Signor Salviati (Paolo Sassanelli), the shipping boss Elsa secretaries for in the evenings, has a weakness for her and keeps flirting. His attentions are all the more tempting with things so rocky in her marriage, but she still resists--mostly. Michele gets increasingly depressed when Vito and Luciano get hired back in the shipping industry and he can't finish their rehab jobs on his own and no longer has their company. Now he doesn't even go to interviews and he has nothing to do but mope.

This little Italian film's hard lesson--that economic disaster can happen to anybody--comes at all too good a time for an American audience. The question the film subliminally asks is to what extent relationships, sense of self, and peace of mind may all rest on a lifestyle--how much economic security or its absence can change everything. Now that Elsa and Michele's "days" are full of "clouds" and their nerves are on edge (and Elsa is exhausted from her new make-do jobs), they get into fights easily. It's not certain their marriage will survive. After a fight, Michele sleeps over one night with Ricky and Alice. This is when he sees that Ricky's a good guy. It's also clear now they're lucky Alice has made herself financially independent.

Elsa's restoration project, which we see her presenting during the opening credits, involves unearthing a fresco that may be the work of an early renaissance painter she's interested in. Toward the end of the film, she returns to the project and finds that her intuitions were correct. She's vindicated, her professor is admiring, and this becomes a metaphor for discovering a future. In the final scene, Elsa and Michele agree to forget the past and move forward as best they can. Their losses have taken them back to basics and to honesty with each other and their daughter.

While this starts with a premise like that of Laurent Cantet's 'Time Out' of a man hiding that he's been pushed out of the corporate world, the development here is much more practical and everyday. The film succeeds because of a lack of tricky plot developments, and the charisma and polish of Buy and Albanese. Soldini does a splendid job of evoking the upper-middle-class lifestyle the couple lives in Genoa. Events are nerve-wracking because they're living so much on the edge. This is probably a more common situation than it used to be. It's not very hard to identify with the couple and feel the day-to-day insecurity they suddenly live with. The security blanket is easily ripped. In a world of globalization and ever more rapacious capitalism, the upper bourgeoisie is yet another new proletariat, and 'Days and Clouds' is a sympathetic portrayal of what that may mean.
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10/10
A Depressing Theme in Depressing Times: A Brilliant Film
gradyharp8 February 2009
Times are tough right now, mirroring the era of The Great Depression. Financial security is a ghost, friendships and relationships are tested by walking the razor edge of insolvency, and according to the 'popular movie' polls the escape for many is in the darkened movie houses with comic hero or animal animated mindless safety net entertainment. Not so with the very brilliant film DAYS AND CLOUDS written (with Doriana Leondeff, Francesco Piccolo, and Federica Pontremoli) and directed with immaculate attention to detail by Silvio Soldini (BREAD AND TULIPS, etc). Soldini recreates the global financial nightmare in the form of an examination of one family's fracture and consequences. It resonates despite the depressing story, offering a glimpse into the universal ties that bind us at this moment.

Elsa (Margherita Buy) is graduating from Art History and Restoration school and seems to be a woman on top of her league, complete with surprise gifts and a celebration staged by her husband Michele (Antonio Albanese). Waking up the morning after her congratulations party, Elsa is ill with a hangover, but even more shocked when Michele breaks the news to her that he has been out of work for two months, ashamed that he has lost his company and his job, hiding in the couple's boat during the day. There is no money left and the couple must face losing their home and are forced to take on menial tasks to survive. Pride prevents the couple from sharing their financial downfall with friends and with their one child - Alice (Alba Rohrwacher) who has elected not to pursue education in favor of waiting tables in a restaurant she has invested in with friends. The tension of keeping the secret to themselves causes mounting friction between the couple and events that would have never happened had they shared their misfortune with friends and family bring their relationship to a near fatal end. How they survive is touched, quietly and quickly and gently, at film's end.

Soldini spares no pain in the responses of his characters' misfortune, but at the same time he allows each character to emerge from ideal married tropes to completely human victims of financial ruin. Buy and Albanese are triumphant in their performances as the married couple caught in the crumble of decline. But there are fine performances by Rohrwacher and Fabio Troiano as her lover Riki, and Carla Signoris as Elsa's closest friend Nadia, and actors playing two ex-employees of Michele who provide a window of friendship in Michele's time of desperate need.

The cinematography by Ramiro Cirita and the musical score blending opera and folk music by Giovanni Venosta enhance the motion of the film that though just under two hours in length, appears more succinct. Silvio Soldini has taken a topic that affects us all and polished into a film that is bound to touch every viewer deeply. Highly recommended movie from The Film Movement. Grady Harp
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8/10
Accomplished film deals with a currently relevant topic
bandw29 May 2011
Elsa and Michele are living a comfortable upper middle class life in Genoa ... until Michele is forced out of the company he co-founded. This film examines the effect this event has on Elsa, Michele, their daughter Alice, and their friends. If you are a middle aged person with a good income, then this film will probably touch a raw nerve, since you would have to feel that this could happen to you; if this has happened to you, then you will likely doubly feel the pain.

The film is brutally honest as it shows how Elsa and Michele give up their comforts one step at a time. After Elsa recovers from the initial shock, she is quite practical in looking for work, any kind of work. But it's different for Michele. He has been used to being the breadwinner and deals with serious issues like humiliation, wounded pride, and feelings of worthlessness--one day he was a key player in his work and family and the next day he feels he is nothing. He is so embarrassed that he cannot even reveal the truth to his daughter until she makes an independent discovery of it. Friendships are severely impacted. What has happened to Michele and Elsa has happened to thousands since the economic downturn and their reactions are not atypical, but their story is laid out here in a very affecting manner.

Antonio Albanese (as Michele) and Margherita Buy (as Elsa) turn in very believable performances. No great tricks in cinematography or time sequencing, just straightforward, solid filmmaking.

Life goes on and people cope, but I think it would be difficult to watch this film without responding to its intense emotional content. No matter what your status, it's always hard to take several steps back. Money, work, and status are important and, as illustrated in this film, I think it is the unusual person who can withstand a serious blow in any one of those areas and come out the better for it.
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8/10
Around and about Margherita Buy
greenylennon5 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This subtle movie is worthy everything it deserved: worthy the price of admission, the praise of the critics, the success at Roma Film Festival. Its subject is highly topical nowadays in Italy: the job insecurity, who brings uncertainty in the love life, too. But the movie deserves your attention especially because the two leads' acting skills, Margherita Buy and Antonio Albanese.

Albanese, an accomplished comedy actor, shows good versatility as drama actor, but the whole scene is stolen by Margherita Buy, as Elsa, a woman who finds the strength to hold on and carry her family. Buy is prisoner of the failed wife's role, but this time she indeed excels. It's truly wonderful watching her fighting everyday to conciliate his husband and daughter.

Alba Caterina Rohrwacher, who plays Alice, Elsa and Michele's daughter, is a very fine brand-new actress: she portrays a type of girl who is usually ignored in movies.

Finally Italian cinema starts again to have its own dignity, and "Giorni e nuvole" (the title can sidetrack a lot) contributes to its revival.
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8/10
Sad, funny, and eventually deeply moving. And well acted!
secondtake24 July 2013
Days and Clouds (2007)

Tender, true, and rather moving without being the slightest bit sentimental. This is a look at normal life, in a way, in modern Northern Italy (the setting is Genoa). A fairly comfortable middle aged couple is going through a crisis as one loses a job and the money crunch adds to other everyday stresses.

And that's it. Which is a lot when you realize that that's it. There will be no murder or shocking accidents, no illness or surprise turn of events of any kind, really. Which is why it draws you further and further, gently, with more humor than pathos, until you really believe these people, or these kind of people, exist quite like this. It's not a random slice of life, since there is certainly a core problem being scrutinized (the loss of a job in mid-life, etc.). But in many ways the little events are so "little" in the cinematic sense they are just a small pageant for the viewer.

So what makes it sing beyond the compelling, restrained story is the acting, above all the acting. The couple, the husband and wife facing the crisis, makes sense because the woman (Margherita Buy) and the man (Antonio Albanese) are so perfect at being imperfect. They don't push their crisis too hard, nor do that have the ideal love at the beginning. What they show is the normal troubled tenderness and awkward anger of getting into such a situation.

Besides a second thread following somewhat their daughter's life, which has taken a less materialistic turn then the parents, the movie adds a whole other element throughout--early Renaissance art. The mother happens to have just finished (belatedly) her graduate degree in Italian art from the 1400s. And she is helping restore an obscure small ceiling painting somewhere else in town, seeing it gradually reveal itself as the movie progresses. The reason this matters is it adds an element of beauty and idealism that is implied by the whole rest of the movie. That we (all of us) are not simply here to make ends meet and worry about money. And this something bigger (call it art, call it something spiritual inspired by art or inspiring art) is what holds us up at times.

So by the end the two aspects--the mundane and the ethereal--meld, every so softly. Quite beautiful.
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10/10
Days and clouds
jotix10011 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Elsa, a woman of a certain age, has been completing her thesis about a minor painter whose work she has been helping to restore. The jury hearing her dissertation is clearly pleased with her findings. Elsa, who is apparently happily married to Michele, an apparent successful executive, is in for a surprise when she gets home. Michele has prepared a party without her knowledge. What Elsa is not ready is for the news she is about to receive from her husband after the festivity is over.

Michele has been out of work for a couple of months. Their upper middle class status is about to crash because they have nothing saved for times like the one they are about to face. Michele, who learns about a position in a lower salaried position, wants to give it a try, but Elsa, thinking their situation is only temporary, feels something better is about to happen sooner, rather than later.

Elsa is furious when Michale confesses. Why go along with a deception they cannot afford. When reality sets in, she decides to apply for a telemarketing position selling creams to bored housewives on the phone. Michele, on the other hand, has no leads, or prospects in the horizon. Taking a job as a messenger, delivering small packages, takes him into an area where his daughter Alice discovers him riding a motorcycle to her complete shock and dismay.

With the help of two former employees, Michele decides to redo the new apartment where he and Elsa are forced to live after selling their own, more palatial home. They are approached by tenants in the housing complex that see an affordable way to get their apartments more livable. Elsa, in turn, finds another part-time job as a secretary for an executive of a shipping company, something that will make her vulnerable to the advances of her younger boss. Elsa and Michele's union seem to be heading for divorce, or at least separation. Fortunately, they find that in spite of all the things that have got in their way, they cannot live without one another.

Silvio Soldini, whose "Pane e tulipani" impressed us, is at it again with this story that recalls other films about the same subject. What distinguishes this picture from the rest is the well written story Mr. Soldini and his collaborators created for his audience, notably the intense performances by Margherite Buy, one of the best actresses working in the Italian cinema today, and Antonio Albanese, who makes a dramatic turn from his usual comedic roles.

The director takes us to meet a couple during a crisis. We are drawn into their plight because both Elsa and Michele are real people whose pain is about to consume them. Fortunately for them, they find strength in their predicament when some other couple would have packed it in as their predicament becomes all too evident.

Genoa is captured in all its splendor by cinematographer Ramiro Civita. The music score plays well in the background, the work of Giovanni Venosta. Ultimately, it is Mr. Soldini's triumph for involving the viewer in a human situation that is not too far fetched and it feels real by the intense portrayal of the two principals and an excellent supporting cast.
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9/10
What movies should be
tetractys8 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Ah, this movie -- came at the end of a long depressing string of the worst of the above. I had gone through the good stuff already and was well into the desperate search for therapeutic diversion. But I kept looking at one awful two-hour stretch of dreck after another. Crank, and Duplicity, and worst of all Surveillance were just making me feel sick or tired or both -- sick and tired. Then I took a chance on one of those movies with a single box on the Blockbuster shelf. It had the usual ivy garland decoration that meant it had at least shown in some festival or other.

I was reluctant to make the effort to view something at the end of a long engineering workday that required me to put my good glasses on and read subtitles and get into the rhythms and melodies of Italian. I'm accustomed to Spanish and French, Japanese, Chinese, but Italian? Did I really want to go there? I am so glad I did.

This movie reminds me of the French relationship movie from the 70s, "Cousin, Cousine." It's an understated but starkly realistic look at two married people rediscovering their meaning to each other after a sudden dramatic change in their circumstance. The man, something of a schlub, has lost his job -- forced out a company he co-founded. He is accustomed to being the boss and being powerful, and now he's nothing.

Even in his family dynamic, with his daughter especially, he tries to remain in control and be tough. His beautiful and brilliant wife has just earned an advanced degree in art history and is involved in a major project of her own devising. But it doesn't pay the bills, and she must forgo this work to take a job at a call center, with a second job at night as secretary in a shipping office while the staff clerk has a baby. She disappears from her friendships out of embarrassment. They move from a house to a dingy flat in a city complex. He takes a series of crummy temp jobs.

How these two adapt is the movie.

Like I say, what movies should be. No guns. No chase. No 'splosions. No car wrecks. No artificial crises involving machines or villains or weapons. But there are intense moments between family members that will make the hair stand up on your neck. There is emotional pain and people reacting in ways that you will recognize -- withdrawal, anger, paralysis, escape. There are touching moments that come from very ordinary actions, like offering a bottle of wine, commenting on the morning brioche, or calling someone and leaving a voicemail message.

The two last sentences of the movie, spoken by the man and woman while lying on a floor looking up at a ceiling, are perfect.
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7/10
Interesting
deepdish8014 September 2007
A great follow up to Bread and Tulips, this story focuses on the other end of the spectrum of a relationship. As the movie progresses and the situation of the characters worsens, you begin to see subtle changes in the manner the couple interacts with each other, kudos to the fine actors for portraying such intimate and fragile emotions so realistically.

Does love conquer all? Silvio Soldini (who was present after the world premiere of this in Toronto to comment on this question) isn't sure if it does, but he's hopeful. Decide for yourself and watch this film as he takes you on a journey of the highs and lows of a middle-aged relationship.
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6/10
Soldini old style
saldrovandi120 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
After three movies that elevated him from d'essai circuits in terms of box office results, director Silvio Soldini returns to more dramatic and current themes closer to his debuts. Middle-class families can't afford financial problems, that's seems to be the sense of the movie. Step after step all certainties and habits of a Genova's well off family, crawl down after Michele (Antonio Albanese) lost his work. Soldini as always, has the sensibility and the touch to treat such difficult material, but nevertheless the script (of the same author with Tiziana Leondeff) never reach the audience. The story advances laboriously, the non-core characters are just sketched and stereotyped, and most of all the main character, Antonio Albanese, not has the necessary depth, his Michele seems a man who could not accept the consequences of his actions, ever astonished by the behavior of the rest of human race, including members of his family. Early the movie slips toward a foreseeable descent, tell the truth, in the end there's a bit of relief. Great waste of talent for the performance of Margherita Buy, as always measured and effective. Awful soundtrack, by the way.
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