In the shots of Genoa punctuating Days And Clouds, a handful of office towers poke up incongruously in the midst of a worn-down city, like a promise of better times ahead, or a reminder of prosperity past. Wealthy marrieds Margherita Buy and Antonio Albanese seem to have it all. He's a partner in a successful business, and she's getting a degree in art history, restoring frescoes on the side. But the morning after a surprise party to celebrate her successful thesis defense, Buy's husband breaks the news that he's been out of work for the past two months, and wasn't drawing a salary for long before that. In a few months, they'll be out of money, and with the country in the grip of a prolonged economic crisis, the prospects for work are few.
Unable to face the fact that he can no longer provide for his family, Albanese veers between anger and depression. He's insulted by any suggestion that he might need help, but furious at his inability to make do on his own. Buy is more pragmatic, abandoning her unsalaried studies to take work as a telemarketer, but she's humiliated by the fact that her husband might have to resort to physical labor to put food on the table.
At times, Soldini gets so wrapped up in his characters' suffering that the movie loses perspective; it's a little hard to sympathize when the couple's needs grow so great that they're forced to sell their boat. But Albanese's visit to the harbor also occasions the movie's most poignant bit of solidarity, when he runs into two of his former employees, now equally jobless. They're all workers now—at least until his new pals gets jobs in the shipyard, and Albanese is well and truly on his own.
While the context, in the U.S. as well as its native country, lends Days And Clouds added resonance, Soldini's main interest is in the politics of marriage. Buy and Albanese try to support each other, but the fear of financial ruin sets them at each other's throats as often as not. The movie doesn't judge their actions, or excuse them. It just allows the details of their relationship to accumulate until they feel less like characters, and more like people you've known for years.