A sexy and intelligent drama, Laura Muscardin’s Italo feature debut “Days” chronicles a turbulent period when one HIV-positive man’s hitherto well-ordered life suddenly jumps rails on several fronts. Roughly similar to Cyvil Collard’s 1993 Gallic sensation “Savage Nights” in theme and not particularly sympathetic protag — though with a cool, concise tenor utterly opposed to that pic’s hysteria — “Days'” attractive thesps and the addressing of current AIDS treatment issues make sales to offshore arthouse distribbers a strong prospect.
A button-down Roman bank executive in his mid-30s who’s always kept his emotions tightly wrapped, handsome Claudio (Thomas Trabacchi) is the very definition of grown-up, rather humorless responsibility. Maintaining good health via both workout and medication regimes — both strictly scheduled — he is about to make a long-planned move to Milan with lover of several years Andrea (Riccardo Salerno).
But something about that looming deadline has Claudio edgy. An atypical instance of anonymous sex in a public park lingers in his mind until he runs across the same hot younger man, Dario (Davide Bechini), as a waiter at a restaurant. Faking excuse to abandon a country weekend with Andrea, Claudio seeks out Dario again, and they commence a passionate affair.
“He makes me feel invulnerable,” protag later confesses. Indeed, Claudio begins behaving with uncharacteristic recklessness, taking a “holiday” from his pill regime, sloughing off important job obligations, sending contrary signals to both boyfriend and new squeeze.
The latter two are both openhearted men who make no secret of their love for Claudio — and their pain at his indecision. Ambivalent to the end, ultimately cruel (if unintentionally so) to nearly everyone in his life, Claudio is not an especially likeable person.
Yet lead perf, Muscardin’s crisp direction and the terse script she’s co-written do nothing to judge or sensationalize Claudio’s behavior. He comes across as a man incapable of either embracing or fully defying his own control-freak instincts. Intriguingly, pic regards the whole progress in neutral terms, leaving aud to draw its own conclusions.
It’s a difficult balance that Muscardin achieves in deceptively simple terms, with no fuss whatsoever in the near-minimalist dialogue and clean cinematic presentation. There are sharp subplots afforded in interactions with several characters whose greater emotional extremis backlights Claudio’s clamshell demeanor.
The warmth projected by Salerno and Bechini renders protag’s remoteness all the more problematic, though Trabacchi does such a good job limning Claudio’s deep-rooted ambivalence that viewer remains on the fence throughout. Nonetheless, chemistry in and out of bed between Dario and Claudio is so convincingly achieved that one never has any doubt why latter would find himself blinkered.
All perfs here are fine-tuned. Near-complete absence of musical underscoring furthers pic’s air of observational directness. Design aspects underscore yuppie sleekness of hero’s milieu. Tech contributions are polished.