This film is a journey of discovery and self-awareness, a story about life and love and finding the true happiness that comes from sharing it all `with' someone, rather than merely settling for sharing `in' someone else's. Mostly, though, `Bread and Tulips,' directed by Silvio Soldini, is about finding the kind of love that enfolds you, lifts you up and boldly takes you with it, in place of the kind that simply allows you to catch hold and follow along. It's about possibilities; of realizing the fulfillment of the promise instead of forever existing in the shadow of the potential, of recognizing what can be and embracing it once it's found-- a consideration that love in the purest sense does exist, and often in the least likely of places. It's just a matter of opening the heart, and finding it.
Rosalba Barletta (Licia Maglietta) is content with her life, or so it would seem; she's a housewife with two sons-- aged sixteen and eighteen-- and a husband, Mimmo (Antonio Catania),who sells bathroom fixtures. Her contentment, though, is perhaps due to the fact that she's never considered the possibility of anything being otherwise. But that changes when, while on vacation with the family, she is inadvertently left behind at a stop. She watches the tour bus pull away and suddenly realizes that her husband and boys haven't even missed her.
She decides to hitchhike home, but on the way, she decides to take a vacation of her own first. One of her rides is headed to Venice, a city to which she has never been but always wanted to go, and so she makes that her destination. And her vacation soon becomes more than that; it becomes an experience that opens up a whole new perspective on life to her, an adventure that reawakens her senses and fills her with an appreciation of life and what love really is. There is bad with the good, however, as it also makes her a woman torn between her old life with the family she loves but who take her for granted, and a new life, in which real love and personal fulfillment is possible. Whatever she decides, one thing is certain: This is one vacation Rosalba is never going to forget.
Director Soldini has crafted and delivered an engaging and thoroughly involving and thoughtful film that grabs hold of the viewer and sweeps you along with it. It's funny, romantic and poignant, with a pure joy for life at it's heart; a romantic film in every sense of the word. Soldini tells Rosalba's story in a way that makes you more than a mere observer, but one who is sharing her life and all that she is feeling. Rosalba is someone you care about, and it's because Soldini has taken great care in attempting to establish that necessary connection between his character and the audience-- and he succeeds. He sets a perfect pace, in that Rosalba's growth and awareness is gradual, the product of subtle exploration rather than epiphany, which makes all that transpires entirely credible. And in the same way, it serves the credibility of the other characters, as well. It's a very grounded presentation that gives the sense of everything happening in real time; Soldini never allows the story to get ahead of itself, and that's part of the bond he's created that allows the audience to keep living it rather than just watching.
The insightful screenplay by Soldini and Doriana Leondeff makes for an engaging film to begin with, but without question, what really sells it is the wonderful performance by Licia Maglietta as Rosalba. Honest and earthy, her portrayal is entirely convincing and believable; she opens up her character and lets you in, where you discover an inner beauty that is vibrant and endearing. And you realize how much Rosalba has to give, and how much she wants to give-- and it's a touching experience; this is a woman who receives by giving, and it's gratifying to encounter that kind of charity of soul, and moreover, to see it rewarded in kind. Most importantly, Maglietta's performance inspires a greater understanding of the human condition; by experiencing the rewards of discovering who Rosalba really is, one may be inclined thereafter to look deeper into others, to reflect upon the nature of those perhaps taken for granted for too long. And the fact that such an impact can be made through a character in a film attests to the talent and ability of Maglietta, who-- something of a cross between Sophia Loren and Giulietta Masina-- has an absorbing screen presence, and plays Rosalba so beautifully.
Bruno Ganz also gives a memorable performance as Fernando Girasoli, the man who befriends Rosalba in Venice. His portrayal is so subtle and understated, and so giving, in that he allows the focus to remain on Rosalba at all times, that the full impact of his character kind of sneaks up on you. The initial meeting between Rosalba and Fernando is so indifferent that he at first appears to be nothing more than a peripheral character in the drama. And it demonstrates how wonderfully Soldini and his actors have integrated the characters with the story to make it play out in such real terms. It's an affecting performance by Ganz, who sparks an unlikely chemistry with Maglietta that works so well on the screen.
Also turning in performances worthy of mention are Marina Massironi, as Rosalba's friend, Grazia, the holistic beautician/masseuse; and Giuseppe Battiston, as Costantino, the hapless plumber/detective.
The supporting cast includes Felice Andreasi (Fermo),Tiziano Cucchiarelli (Nic),Matteo Febo (Salvo),Tatiana Lepore (Adele) and Vitalba Andrea (Ketty). Highly entertaining and thoroughly involving on a very personal level, `Bread and Tulips' is a film that provides an unforgettable emotional experience; one that promotes a deeper understanding of human nature by allowing you to get outside of yourself, which ultimately affords a fresh perspective on life and the way we live it. 9/10.