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There’s Still Tomorrow ★★★★



Released: 26 April 2024

Director: Paola Cortellesi

Starring: Paola Cortellesi, Valerio Mastandrea, Romana Maggiora, Emanuela Fanelli

When I flew back to Italy for the Christmas holidays, my mum was adamant to take me to the nearest cinema and watch There’s Still Tomorrow. I found myself curious to finally see the movie that seemingly had the entire country buzzing and physically go to the cinema again. At the same time, I could not help but ask myself if this film would hold up to the hype that now surrounded it. As I sit down to type the review of Paola Cortellesi’s There’s Still Tomorrow, I can see the movie ticket sitting on my desk. While I am often one for keeping film tickets, it feels quite significant to see this one still here with some of my most prized possessions, despite its date and title now almost fading away.

There’s Still Tomorrow is truly one of those films that works best knowing little going in. If you allow the movie to surprise you with narrative, then you will understand how incredible its plot and script are by the end. Set in May 1946 in Rome, the movie portrays the Italian capital taken over by the American Allied troops and widespread poverty in the aftermath of WWII. In this context, we follow Delia (Paola Cortellesi) as she moves between domestic engagements and multiple jobs across the city. In her hardship, she finds the help of friendly faces, including the mechanic Nino (Vinicio Marchioni) and her friend Franca (Paola Tiziana Cruciani), alongside unlikely ally William (Yovn Joseph), an African American soldier who wants to help her out.

The film paints the picture of an Italy that seems now long gone, but that is only really a few generations away at most. Inspired by Cortellesi’s own grandmother and great-grandmother, There’s Still Tomorrow reminded me that this is the same Italy vexed by the aftermath of a war that my grandparents spoke so often about. Its historical accuracy adds an element of further authenticity and realism to the story, which takes us back in time to post-war Italy for the duration of the movie.

There’s Still Tomorrow is Cortellesi’s debut as a director and what a stunner it is. The visual style is clearly indebted to Italian Neorealism. This is especially true for the aerial shots of Rome and all its landmarks, which reminded me very much of Roberto Rossellini’s Rome Open City. Thematically, Cortellesi also goes back to the topics and subjects that are dear to Neorealism thanks to the film’s focus on the working class in post-war Italy. In this modern retelling of Neorealist ideas, we get to see the same themes through a feminist lens as well, as the main character – much like the director herself – is a woman.

With this film, Cortellesi gently touches on the topic of domestic violence and gender-based discrimination in her exploration of the lives of women in post-war Italy. As the film goes on and the character grows, it is a joy to see Delia finally regaining control of her own life in the best – and perhaps unexpected – way possible. Her story is a message of hope not only for all the women who feel trapped in a similar situation as Delia – and we know how many examples of this there are in Italy alone – but also for the future, embodied in Delia’s daughter in There’s Still Tomorrow.

As mentioned, the visual style is a clear reference to the black-and-white aesthetic of Italian Neorealism, but there is also a lot of comedy in the film. In particular, There’s Still Tomorrow reminded me of the 1930s Hollywood screwball comedies, with its strong female leading character. The comedy works well, especially in the dialogue – almost exclusively in a heavy accent from Rome that sounds incredibly distinctive for those of us in the audience who understand Italian and its regional nuances – and in the interactions between Delia and William.

However, I found some of There’s Still Tomorrow’s comedic aspects a touch exaggerated and overplayed, when it comes to the visual comedy. This is especially true in the visionary and exaggerated sequences when Delia and Nino share a chocolate bar in a scene that lasts too long, with a camera movement that seems to belong to another movie entirely. The same is also true when we see Ivano’s abuse towards his wife as the film shies away from showing the actual violence and portrays a dance sequence instead. This scene, with its carefully staged movements – almost like a musical sequence, takes away from the realism of the film and ultimately clashes with its overall tone.

There’s Still Tomorrow has been widely successful in Italy, quickly becoming the highest-grossing film of 2023 in the country, managing to surpass even Barbie, and the ninth highest-grossing film ever in Italy. This is particularly impressive given its modest marketing and promotional campaign, its struggle to get funding, and the relatively small budget compared to Hollywood productions. This is proof that there are so many great stories out there that people can – and will – resonate with audiences. As evident with this example, viewers are very much still willing to go to the cinema, at least for this type of film that they have an appetite for.

When the lights came on after the final scene, which is also incidentally the most significant moment of There’s Still Tomorrow, and the very impactful end credits with photos of the time, all the pieces of the movie finally came together like a puzzle. Only then I finally understood why everyone I know could not stop talking about this film, why it was not just me and my mum who were crying during the end scene, but also every other woman in that movie theatre as we saw the images of the historical fight for our rights that we now take for granted. As someone who loved the movie’s reflection on one of the most important moments of Italian history, and the history of the feminist movement in the country too, I can only hope its sensibility also translates to the international audiences.

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