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The film that beat Barbie at the Italian box office: Baroness Bonham-Carter reviews 'There’s Still Tomorrow'

Delia waiting in line to vote | Image courtesy of Vue

3 min read

Capturing the country’s contradictions, with themes that still resonate today, Paola Cortellesi’s depiction of women breaking with the traditional family order in post-war Italy is a harrowing – but ultimately uplifting – film

There’s Still Tomorrow is the ninth-highest-grossing Italian film ever, and the most successful film of 2023 in Italy, beating Barbie. Both films are directed by women and have a shared interest in female empowerment – but there the similarities end. One set in bubble gum pink 1960s ‘Barbie Land’, the other monochrome Rome in 1946. One a heroine who is a doll, the other an abused wife.

In There’s Still Tomorrow the war is over, American GIs are patrolling the streets and – I was amazed to discover – Italian women are about to get the vote for the first time. But in 1940s Italy there is a lot that still needs doing – and the huge popular reaction to this film suggests there still is today.

I declare an interest: I love Italy and for many reasons other than those expressed by Lord Byron, “Italia! O Italia! thou who hast the fatal gift beauty”.

My father was a POW incarcerated in Poppi in Tuscany. He escaped the prisoner of war camp and walked to Allied lines, helped on his whole journey by very brave, wonderful Italians putting their own lives very much on the line. 

He owes them his life and consequently so do I mine. And then for all of it I have been visiting our family house south of Naples – owned and shared by my extended family.

Paola Cortellesi plays Delia, her performance enthralling – and deep

Italy is a country of contradictions and this film captures this, its richness and its strife. There’s Still Tomorrow is many things. It is harrowing – it centres around an abusive relationship, starting with a morning’s greeting from husband (Ivano) to wife (Delia) of a slap across the face. Paola Cortellesi – also the director – plays Delia, her performance enthralling – and deep – reminiscent of past Italian divas such as Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani.

It is depressing – lots of examples of blind eyes turned. No-one is in doubt as to what happens when doors are shut, windows closed and Delia is left alone with Ivano – his excuse: “I did two wars.” And the misogyny extends into the workplace where Delia is paid less than a young man she has to teach to do the job.

There's Still TomorrowIt is enhancing – we follow small victories: how Delia rescues her daughter, Marcella, wonderfully acted by Romana Maggiora Vergano, from a marriage. How as a mother she first perceives this is as an escape for her daughter but soon realises it is the same trap she walked into. How Delia ensures that Marcella has the money for the education she really wants, but which Ivano of course thinks is a waste. How friendships whether old and deep or new and superficial – as in the case of Delia’s with a GI she passes in the street – help.

It is uplifting – it has a great ending, which I cannot reveal but which involves a wonderful sleight-of-hand, and is a further example of the bond of mother and daughter, in this case Marcella rescuing Delia. And it allows the audience to hope for a more positive future. I leave you to decide. 

Baroness Bonham-Carter is a Liberal Democrat peer

There’s Still Tomorrow (C’è ancora domani)
Directed by: Paola Cortellesi
Venue: Selected cinemas including Vue

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