It’s tough to feel as bad for Days and Clouds’ characters as they do for themselves. Michele (Antonio Albanese) and his wife Elsa (Margherita Buy) lead a lavish lifestyle: far-flung vacations, pricey presents and extravagant parties, with a maid to clean up. Their paintings have brushstrokes. But when Michele, a classic bulb-nosed, bald-on-top sad sack, loses his high-paying job, they have to make sacrifices: she quits her unpaid art restoration gig — get your handkerchiefs out — to become a secretary; he degrades himself as a handyman.
Soldini (Bread and Tulips) is careful to keep his principals sympathetic — suggesting, for example, that Michele lost his job because he fought for the little guy — and the excellent cast works hard to show how pitiably difficult it is to lose one’s wealth: the exhaustion after working all day, the shame of being unemployed, how love seems impossible in the face of economic strain. It’s an exercise in humiliation and an education in humility.
Their newfound indigence reduces the couple to their true selves — bitter, self-pitying — and their resulting confrontations are blistering, at least the first few times. But their descent into the lower middle class, played straight, doesn’t reach the level of tragedy. Forced to sell their house, they suffer the injury of moving into a modest apartment. It looks a lot nicer than mine.