In 'Days And Clouds,' Love In Shades Of Gray

Antonio Albanese and Margherita Buy in 'Days and Clouds' i i

The worst of times: Michele (Antonio Albanese) and Elsa (Margherita Buy) face the wreck of their financial fortunes. Phillipe Antonello/Film Movement hide caption

itoggle caption Phillipe Antonello/Film Movement
Antonio Albanese and Margherita Buy in 'Days and Clouds'

The worst of times: Michele (Antonio Albanese) and Elsa (Margherita Buy) face the wreck of their financial fortunes.

Phillipe Antonello/Film Movement

Days and Clouds

  • Director: Silvio Soldini
  • Genre: Drama
  • Running Time: 115 minutes

Not Rated: While it's probably safe for kids to see, they're not the target audience.

Margherita Buy and Antonio Albanese i i

... but Days and Clouds suggests, at least, that they'll find a way through the crisis together. Phillipe Antonello/Film Movement hide caption

itoggle caption Phillipe Antonello/Film Movement
Margherita Buy and Antonio Albanese

... but Days and Clouds suggests, at least, that they'll find a way through the crisis together.

Phillipe Antonello/Film Movement

Elsa has every reason to feel that life is her oyster.

She's successfully defended her dissertation on Renaissance art. Her boat-builder husband Michele has presented her with an expensive graduation gift — lovely antique earrings — and taken her home to their luxurious Genoa residence for a surprise party attended by virtually everyone she knows. There's a band, lots of food, joy overflowing. The next morning, however, Elsa awakens to a nightmare.

For two months, Michele has hidden from her that his partners have forced him out of his company — 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 Elsa as she finished up her art degree, Michele has spent much of their remaining savings. His father's nursing-home tab is depleting what's left. And he's mortgaged that glamorous house to pay business debts.

The surprise party turns out to have been a lavish farewell to their lifestyle: In short order they will lose their home, their boat, and much of the art they've collected on trips around the world. Elsa's dreams of art-restoration work will be put on hold, meanwhile, as she slaves away on a secretarial night shift just 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 right along with her.

But for Soldini, even bleakness has a poetic side, and his imagery is occasionally breathtaking here — 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 real-life image suggesting the possibility of a renaissance in their marriage.

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