There’s Still Tomorrow  (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Paola Cortellesi, 2023, 118 mins, in Italian with subtitles

Cast:  Paola Cortellesi, Valerio Mastandrea, Romana Maggiora Vergano

Review by Carol Allen

Paola Cortellesi’s brilliant and absorbing directorial debut, in which she also plays the lead, is in many ways similar to the work of Italian neorealistic directors of the post war period – Fellini, Rossellini, de Sica and others – but with a story told from a contemporary perspective.

It is set in Rome in 1946 – the year that women in Italy finally got the vote.   But that is far from the mind of Delia (Paola Cortellesi), whose life is one of grinding poverty and resignation to her lot as traditional wife and mother.  She has an abusive husband Ivano (Valerio Mastandrea) – in the shocking first scene of the film he slaps her round the face when she bids him good morning.  She works umpteen poorly paid jobs to keep food on the table and is slave to her equally abusive, bedbound  father in law.  Her two small sons are badly behaved little tykes and her only hope for the future is her daughter Marcella (Romana Maggiora Vergano), who is being courted by a middle class boy Giulio (Francesco Centorame).  In fact Delia is “stealing” some of the money she earns in all those jobs, rather than handing it all over to her husband, and  saving it for Marcella’s wedding dress. 

Unexpectedly in view of the subject matter, there is a lot of humour in the film as well.   Cortellesi is best known in Italy as a comic actress and even in such an apparently cheerless story, her comedy skills come through, both in supporting characters, such as Delia’s outspoken best friend Marisa (Emanuela Fanelli) , who keeps her own husband well under her thumb, or as in the tragi/comic sequence where Delia struggles to mount an engagement lunch for the young couple and Giulio’s snooty parents and everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.  There are also moments of surrealism.  A sort of stylised ballet of Ivano beating up his wife and a formalised memory sequence of their courtship and marriage when young.

The crisp black and white photography evokes the period but with contemporary technical quality, while throughout, as a  modern audience we hope and expect Delia to rebel against her dreary life, as indeed Marisa urges her to do.  After all Delia is not without admirers.  There’s the kindly black American soldier William (Yonv Joseph) – they can’t understand a word each other says but he courts her with much coveted American chocolate.  And there is her pre-marriage sweetheart Nino (Vinicio Marchioni) who urges her to run away with him.  The question is, will Delia make her escape and if so, when, how and why?

This is a totally delightful film, witty and charming despite its downbeat subject matter, and very evocative of the post war period.  It has been chosen by the Vue cinema chain as its first venture into distribution, influenced, I should imagine, by the fact that the film has been packing audiences into the cinemas in Italy,  It deserves to do so here as well.