In its detailing of a couple's financial freefall after the loss of a job, Silvio Soldini's Days and Clouds -- recently featured in the Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual roundup of new Italian cinema -- couldn't ask for a more fittingly precipitous point in time for its American theatrical release than this disquieting summer of soaring gas prices, staycations, anxious awaiting of stimulus checks, and shuttering Starbucks.
Granted, Elsa (an elegant Margherita Buy) and Michele (Antonio Albanese) start off with means far above that of the average household; the opening scenes quickly establish the extravagant lifestyle to which the married, middle-aged couple are accustomed: To celebrate the recent completion of her art-history degree, Michele takes Elsa out for dinner, gifts an expensive-looking pair of earrings, throws a surprise party, and alludes to near-future plans for a trip to Cambodia. Though she appears momentarily overwhelmed by this display of largesse, Elsa isn't particularly discomfited. But the symbolic rude awakening -- she steps out of bed the next morning onto shards of the bedside lamp broken in happy, drunken oblivion the night before -- is made actual when Michele confesses that, not wanting to distract from her final exam studies, he didn't reveal sooner that two months prior his business partners pushed him out of the company he co-founded.
The majority of us can't relate to the Oliveris' former level of material comfort, but their alarmingly swift descent into dire straits, and attempts to scale back on expenses and lower expectations in the search for employment, strikes closer to home. Click here to read the rest of Kristi Mitsuda's review of Days and Clouds.