There’s Still Tomorrow review – resoundingly sentimental drama in postwar Rome

Estimated read time 2 min read

Italian actor and singer Paola Cortellesi has been breaking hearts and box office records on her home turf with this directing debut. It’s a richly and even outrageously sentimental working-class drama of postwar Rome, a story of domestic abuse whose heroine finally escapes from misogyny and cruelty through a piece of narrative sleight-of-hand that borders on magic-neorealism, performed with shameless theatrical flair and marvellously composed in luminous monochrome. The film pays homage to early pictures by De Sica and Fellini, and Cortellesi’s own performance is consciously in the spirit of movie divas such as Anna Magnani, Sophia Loren and Giulietta Masina.

The scene is Rome just after the end of the second world war, when American GIs were a presence on the streets and Italian women had just been given the right to vote – though exercising it while under the baleful eye of the film’s misogynist menfolk is another matter. Cortellesi plays Delia, a woman who is being regularly beaten by her brutish husband Ivano (Valerio Mastandrea). He makes her slave around the house, skivvy to his cantankerous bedridden father (great stuff from veteran comic turn Giorgio Colangeli), and do odd jobs around the city, the cash payment for which she has to hand over at the end of every day. Their teenage daughter Marcella (Romana Maggiora Vergano), who sees how her mother is being brutalised and humiliated, is made to sleep in the same bedroom as her two brattish kid brothers, and when she receives a proposal of marriage from a well-off local boy, she, like her parents, is thrilled – at first.

Delia also has admirers: a GI is concerned by her bruises and an old flame, now working as a mechanic, wonders what might have been. But aside from this, Delia has a piece of paper she’s keeping secret. Is it a love letter? Some legal document that might somehow get her away from this terrible prison? Not exactly, but Cortellesi keeps us on the edge of our seats with some nailbiting suspense which finally fuses the personal and the political in a way which, though a bit of a cheat, hits a resounding final chord. This is storytelling with terrific confidence and panache.


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