Una Breve Vacanza (A Brief Vacation) Reviews
November 1, 2012
She Should Have Divorced Him Years Ago
I don't know when divorce became legal in Italy; twelve years earlier, [i]Divorce Italian Style[/i] was made based on the fact that divorce was illegal. However, I note by going over my review of it that the movie seems to have specified Sicily. So maybe it was legal in the rest of Italy but illegal in Sicily, or maybe the law changed between movies, or something. I'll also admit that I was trying to work out the legal situation while actually watching this movie, which is usually a bad sign. However, that was not because I was bored. It's because it was what I felt the character should have done, but I wasn't sure if she could. Oh, I understood why it wasn't necessarily something she considered; there are a lot of reasons it wasn't necessarily something she considered. However, it was what I wanted for her regardless of a potential love interest or not. I just wanted her to get out.
Clara Mataro (Florinda Bolkan) is a mother of three who works in a factory. Her husband, Franco (Renato Salvatori), has a leg injury and cannot work. Her mother-in-law (Anna Carena) stays at home with the kids. One day at work, Clara isn't feeling well, and her coworkers finally persuade her to go see a doctor. While waiting at the hospital, she meets Luigi (Daniel Quenaud), who is young and handsome. They go out for a snack while waiting, and she is seen by her brother-in-law (Hugh Blanco). Her husband confronts her angrily and doesn't seem to care when she explains what she was doing. The next day, he and his mother go with Clara to the hospital, where they are told that she has a minor case of TB and must go to a sanatorium. They resist, because they need her paycheck, and anyway who is going to take care of them? And anyway the doctor must be exaggerating when he tells Clara that she will die if she doesn't go. But go she eventually does, and she begins to open.
Most of the movie is set at the sanatorium, actually, but her family bothers me so much that I have to start there. She says her grandmother died of TB. Her husband brushes it off. Neither he nor his mother express even a little concern about Clara's health. It's all about what will happen to them. Yes, it seems true that her husband can't work, but if Clara dies, will they be better off? And the brother-in-law seems to live with them; can he work? Late in the movie, the husband and family drive up to the north of Italy to get Clara and bring her home to Milan, so they must have money from somewhere--they were able to buy a car. The mother-in-law takes care of the children while Clara is at work, not the husband. I'm certainly not trying to say that Clara shouldn't do anything around the house, but they're trying to make her do everything. They're trying to make her believe that it is her responsibility to do everything. They still don't feel the need to actually appreciate her, though.
For the most part, I don't think Luigi is important to the story. The fact that Clara came home that day wearing new underwear was suspicious enough. (Seriously--why did she buy underwear?) She was growing and changing enough by being around the other women, by learning that she actually liked to read, by being required by medical professionals to spend her time thinking about herself. Luigi or no Luigi, the Clara who left Milan could not be the Clara who returned there. The only place I do think he serves a legitimate purpose in the story was in giving Clara the impetus she needed to actually consider divorce. Whoever she was before she married Franco, she had by this point come to believe that this was the life she was supposed to be living. It is Luigi who gave her the ability to consider that perhaps there was another life waiting somewhere for her. The other women she met, the ones paying for their stays, helped, but the idea that a man might care for her for herself clinched it.
There is, apparently, a saying on which this is based--"sickness is the vacation of the poor." It seems astonishing that National Health is paying for Clara to take literally months away from her family and into the mountains and yet it isn't illegal for the factory where she works to fire her just because she's gotten sick. Most of my friends are on the "don't get sick" healthcare plan. Sickness, to us, is no vacation; most of my friends can't even take a few days off work to ensure that they don't spread their illness to their coworkers. Still, more of my friends can manage that than can manage a proper vacation. Still, though, I think we're luckier than Clara for the most part. Most of us are more appreciated in our daily lives than she is. Even the friend I feel is least appreciated does have a husband who loves her very much and is aware of all she does for him, even if her mother-in-law is even less considerate than Clara's. At least Clara's mother-in-law can bathe herself.