There’s Still Tomorrow (2023) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

There’s Still Tomorrow (C’è ancora domani)  ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Trying to escape from the patriarchy in the Italian post-war society, Delia plots an act of rebellion against her violent husband. On in cinemas now.

The film was released in Italy last year to a chorus of countless praises and after breaking all box office records, surpassing even the likes of Barbie and Oppenheimer (there’s talk already about an American remake with Lady Gaga), finally Paola Cortellesi’s black-and-white melodrama hits the British screens too.

For months I’d been listening to all my friends back home talking about what is not only one of Italy’s ten highest-grossing films of all time, but also the country’s most successful feature directed by a woman.

When expectations are so high, I know from experience that disappointment could be just around the corner. But, as always, it’s all a little bit more complex than just a simple star rating.

There are plenty of things to like about this overall thought-provoking film and I’m sure the international audience out there will be able to enjoy it immensely and can come out as touched as everybody else did in its home country.

For years Paola Cortellesi has been known in Italy as a comic actress. For over two decades she had appeared on several TV show, then in the year 2000 she had her debut role as a supporting actress by the most famous trio of comedians of the time, Aldo Giovanni and Giacomo (also born out of short TV sketches), which became the highest-grossing Italian comedy of the year.

Since then she has starred in over 20 movies, both on the big screen and on TV, winning several awards too, including the equivalent of the Italian Oscar, the ‘David di Donatello’ for Best Actress for her role in Escort in Love (Nessuno mi può giudicare) in 2011.

There’s Still Tomorrow is her triumphant directorial debut (she’s also written the film and she is starring in it too). Quite an achievement indeed. The fact alone that she was able to bring Italian masses back to the cinema (sadly this is an art form that in Italy, more than many other places, is really struggling), beat the Hollywood juggernauts at the box office and receive international releases across the globe is a great achievement that should be commended and lauded.

Beyond the box office numbers, the film itself is certainly not without its merits: Cortellese filmed it all black-and-white, emulating and, at the same time, paying homage to the style and feel of some of those great classics from the Italian neo-realism.

Directors like De Sica, or Rossellini (and films like Bicycle Thieves and Rome, Open City, just to mention a couple) who in the ‘40s and ‘50s told stories of ordinary people (many were non-actors, literally taken off the streets) living their everyday life and going through the harsh realities of post war Italy.

Even Cortellesi’s own performance in the film too seems to echo those of the great Anna Magnani or Sophia Loren (though, I have to say, without that he depth and natural spontaneity that those two had).

But while some of the images she creates are evocative and may seem well researched (courtesy of some good art direction and cinematography too) I found Cortellesi’s attempts at modernisation slightly ill-advised and tonally a bit disconcerting.

The addition of modern songs, having the characters mouthing the lyrics and the use of cinematic tricks, like slow-motion, took me completely out of the film, undermining not just all the work that had been done in recreating the perfect settings, but also taking away some of the emotional heft that the story could have had.

Cortellesi’s attempts to try to get into the main character’s head, transforming the beating into a dance (I guess to show her defence mechanism to cope with the abuse) was one of the worst offenders, as far as I’m concerned, making me suddenly very aware of the filmic artifices, when I was actually more in need of understanding the pain and suffering on a more emotional level (aside from the fact that it’s pretty much the same device Lars Von Trier used in Dancer in the Dark more than two decades ago).

In other words, instead of enhancing the message of the film and making it more contemporary, I thought it did the opposite and weakened it.

Also the depictions of the “husband beater” felt a little clichéd, almost cartoonish and a bit too superficial to me, and, however certainly inspired by the sadly too-many real stories out there, didn’t quite scratch beyond the surface.

In the end, despite the noble intentions, the film gives away to melodrama, more than actual real drama and many of the scenes feel more like a series of sketchy vignettes, and oversimplifications of family dynamic.

The film does work a lot better whenever Cortellesi uses her dry humour and comedy to shine a light in the darkness. Fortunately, that happens quite often throughout the film, making it overall a pleasant experience, which is possibly the reason beyond the crowd-pleasing effect that it had back in its own country.

The scene with the dead grandfather is a prime example of that, making us laugh in the midst of a potentially sad event, as well as the many well-observed details peppered throughout the film (a dog peeing by the main character’s front window, and the array of wonderful secondary characters) and the hilarious use on Roman dialect (which sadly gets a bit lost in subtitles).

The script is not as smooth as one would like and does require to make a couple of leaps of faiths too. A specific episode to do with a certain bomb exploding (I’m careful not to spoil anything here), comes out of nowhere and actually makes very little sense if you pause and think about it for more than two seconds.

As for the overly-praised ending, whilst on one hand is beautifully constructed, with some nail-biting suspense and nicely pulls the rug out of the audience’s feet, certainly makes it for a beautiful and rousing coda, but I must say, for me, that’s all it was. It felt a bit tagged-on, underdeveloped and coming out of the blue.

I just wished that side of the story had been better planted beforehand, making the film more cohesive, as opposed to just a surprising and clever twist in the tale.

It’s hard to talk about this without spoiling it for those who have not yet seen it.

But despite my reservations, the central message of resilience and hope for a brighter future comes across very well, and the film deserves to be seen by as many people as possible, giving that boost Italian cinema really deserves after its glorious past and a not-so-happy present. Just the fact that this has been seen by more Italians than Barbie, makes me hopeful for the future!

In Italy they are already talking about it as a possible candidate for the next best foreign language film, and while I do wish it all the best, I don’t think it has that broad appeal, charm and heart of previous Oscar winners like Cinema Paradiso or Life is Beautiful.

There’s Still Tomorrow is on at Chiswick Cinema now.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick, and a co-creator of the Chiswick In Film festival.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

Chiswick In Film festival: Chiswick In Film festival 2023

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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