A Brief Vacation
What's it About
Clara (Bolkan) supports her family by working long, arduous hours in a Milan factory. At home, her husband Franco (Salvatori) is unable to work due to a broken foot. They live with his mother and their three young sons in a cramped basement apartment. Clara gets diagnosed with tuberculosis, and against the wishes of her husband and mother-in-law, leaves for a sanatorium in the Italian Alps. There she relaxes, enjoys the company of other women, and starts a tentative love affair with Luigi (Quenaud), a man with whom she enjoyed a brief flirtation back in Milan.
Why we love it
De Sica's penultimate film is a heartbreaking character study of a woman awakening to a world of love and possibility. Bolkan literally blossoms before our eyes as she goes from oppressed drone to engaged, self-assured beauty. Returning to the working-class portrayals of his early work, De Sica expertly evokes the harsh, deadening factory environment and the human toll it takes. By contrast with Clara's dreary life in Milan, her sanatorium experience seems like a sort of Shangri-La — a bright, tantalizing respite that can't last. Don't miss this late, undervalued entry in the De Sica oeuvre.