How a marriage copes with severe economic challenges is the theme of Silvio Soldini s superb, moving and thought-provoking film.Few films have dealt more incisively or compassionately with marriage than Silvio Soldini s Days and Clouds. In Genoa, Elsa and Michele (Margherita Buy, Antonio Albanese) suddenly find themselves financially downsized, and must deal with the horror of losing apartment and face among their yuppie friends, as well as their own daughter, hard-working restaurateur, Alice (Alba Rohrwacher). They decide to conceal their plight from everyone and, as Michele becomes first an apartment renovator and then a motorcycle messenger and Elsa gives up her beloved studies for an art history degree to do secretarial work, an inevitable toll is taken on their relationship. It s a simple yet gripping story which could happen to anyone, and Soldini s finely observed, marvelously sensitive writing and direction draw you in like a subtle whirlpool. At first glimpse, Elsa and Michele seem an averagely attractive, upscale couple but, such are the magnetism and power of the performances of the actors that they grow more beautiful in their deepening humanity and you come to love them. Buy is ferociously intelligent and appealingly resilient, even going through nightmare times, while Albanese is a genuine modern hero, heartbreaking as he picks up the check at dinner party in an empty show of bravado before an appalled Elsa, and then impressively infuriated in his confrontation with friends who ve betrayed him, like his ex-business partner and in a scene in which he reluctantly tries to get a buddy to repay him for an ancient, blithely disremembered financial loan. There is, perforce, a lot of fighting here, especially between Elsa and Michele, but the combat rings emotionally true and absorbing at all times, welling up suddenly, as with the stubborn, compassionate Alice (an excellent, no-nonsense Rohrwacher) but also, as with real intimates, dissipating as suddenly into a more contemplative remorse. It s the kind of film Hollywood should be making now in these financially straitened times for Americans, giving us something we can relate to besides comic strips and commercial fluff. Even the smallest roles like two buddies who help Michele with the apartment work, their various clients, Elsa s co-workers on the restoration of a Renaissance fresco, and her new boss, who takes a quite understandable fancy to her, are sublimely cast. They all comprise the essence of cinema so lacking in so many films today: real people going through real stuff with humor and mordant fortitude. As more and more of that fresco reveals itself to our enchanted eyes, so too do these characters inner glory becomes ever more apparent in this warm, deeply rewarding work. --Film Journal International
After successfully defending her dissertation on Renaissance art, Elsa (Margherita Buy) has every reason to feel that life is her oyster. Her husband Michele (Antonio Abanese) presents her with a graduation gift -- lovely antique earrings -- then takes her home to their luxurious home in Genoa for a surprise party attended by virtually everyone she knows. There s a band, lots of food, joy overflowing. The next morning, however, she awakens to a nightmare. For two months, Michele has hidden from her that his partners forced him out of his boat-building business, and though he s been steadily looking for work, he s found nothing. And that s not the half of their problems. In trying not to worry her as she finished up her art degree, he has spent much of their remaining savings. His father s nursing home is depleting what s left. And he s mortgaged the house to pay business debts. The surprise party turns out to have been a lavish farewell to their lifestyle. In short order they lose their home, their boat, and Michele starts selling off art they ve collected on trips around the world, while Elsa s dreams of art restoration work are put on hold as she slaves away on a secretarial night shift to put food on the table. At least they have each other, you say to yourself, just as their relationship starts to slip as well. Director Silvio Soldini, best known in this country for his more lyrical, fairytale-ish look at marriage (Bread and Tulips), here does realism with hand-held cameras, and no shortage of naturalistic detail. The couple s cramped new apartment is a palpable horror; when Elsa peers out at the view, seeing only clouds in their future, you despair with her. But for Soldini even bleakness has a poetic side, and his imagery is often breathtaking. Never more so than in the film s final tableau, which elegantly connects a Renaissance fresco Elsa had been working on before the couple s fall from grace, with a strikingly similar image suggesting the possibility of a renaissance in their marriage. --National Public Radio
Critic Pick / Listed as one of top 10 Summer Art films --The New York Times
Well-to-do, sophisticated couple, Elsa and Michele, have a 20 year-old daughter, Alice, and enough money for Elsa to leave her job and fulfill an old dream of studying art history. After she graduates, however, their lives change. Michele confesses he hasn't worked in two months and was fired by the company he founded years ago. Elsa overcomes her initial shock by pouring extra energy into facing the crisis, while Michele, exhausted by an unsuccessful job hunt, lets himself go, alternating between vivacity and apathy. The growing distance between them eventually leads to a break-up. Only when they part will they realize that they risk losing their most precious possession: the love that binds them.
WINNER Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, 2008 David di Donatello Awards (Italian Academy Awards) - 15 Nominations total
WINNER Best Actress, Moscow Intl Film Festival
OFFICIAL SELECTION Toronto Intl Film Festival, Seattle Intl Film Festival, London Film Festival, Rome Film Festival, Newport Intl Film Festival, Munich Film Festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema (Film Society of Lincoln Center, NY)