“Days and Clouds” opens with a presentation about art restoration – that skill of peeling back layers of crud and artifice and discovering something beautiful underneath. This is a metaphor for what happens in the rest of the movie, but the filmmakers are so afraid of being heavy-handed, you might not notice. And that would be a shame, because without the guiding light of that metaphor, this might be a pretty dull and drab movie.
But if you’ll take that metaphor to heart, you’ll see the movie in a different light. Just after her successful presentation, middle-aged art student Margharita Buy discovers that her husband lost his job months ago, and the money is quickly running out. Thus the first layer of artifice on their relationship, and their life, falls away. As they struggle to figure out how to pay bills, what to sell, and how to live with dignity and without alienating all their friends, the answers don’t come easy. But watch; something beautiful begins to appear, in the kindness of strangers, the quiet “thank you”s of Michele’s former employees, the dignity of hard work. The process is messy and often ugly, but something beautiful is underneath, and when it it revealed in the final frames of “Days and Clouds,” it makes it all seem worth it.