With a worldwide Recession in full bloom, Silvio Soldini's Days and Clouds (Giorni e nuvole) offers a timely humanistic message, reminding viewers about what our top priorities should be during tough economic times. Intimate and personal, Soldini's film draws viewers in close and never relinquishes its grip.
Middle-aged Elsa (Margherita Buy) has just completed her art history degree, but her celebratory mood shifts radically when she learns that husband Michele (Antonio Albanese) has been booted from the company he founded with his best friend and hasn't worked for two months. He kept this secret because he didn't want to distract Elsa from finishing her degree; he's been looking for work but continually finds that he's over-qualified and suitable management jobs simply are not available.
Hurt by Michele's secrecy, Elsa naturally becomes terrified of their financial status, especially when realizing that their comfortable Genoan home is immediately in jeopardy. They have no choice but to sell, and it soon becomes apparent that they can't expect a good return. They must even sell Michele's prized boat to pay essential bills.
Even though Elsa thinks they should tell their 20-year old daughter Alice (Alba Rohrwacher), Michele vetoes the idea. Michele is too embarrassed and rationalizes that their daughter need not know since she no longer lives with them. Both Michele and Elsa are reluctant to ask for help, so they seek ways to keep financially afloat independently. Elsa even takes a menial job as a telemarketer and then gives up her pet fresco restoration project when offered upgraded secretarial employment.
Michele doesn't deal with his situation as positively. At his wife's suggestion, he turns down a job that would only pay half his previous salary and is only able to find some handyman work with two former employees who are now also unemployed. Frustrations and depression soon get the best of him and visiting his dementia suffering father certainly provides no therapeutic value. Inevitably tensions increase at home, yet Michele and Elsa find enough resilience to maintain their relationship.
Both lead actors communicate masterfully as they bring the simple story to fruition, and Soldini's camera captures their nuanced gestures intimately so viewers gain insight into these very down to earth characters. Conversations flow realistically, making the compelling narrative come across believably, yet the script is tightly woven within the film's structure—from the broken lamp that first signals trouble to the magnificent restored fresco that represents a long lasting loving relationship that forms the bedrock of this likeable family. Financial challenges frequently test couples—breaking many but forming tighter bonds between the most steadfast. Days and Clouds puts a very human face on the latter scenario.