There's Still Tomorrow
There’s Still Tomorrow

THERE ARE MOMENTS in There’s Still Tomorrow (or C’è ancora domani) where it’s not only clear why the film found more commercial success than Oppenheimer in its native country of Italy, but also convince me it may have deserved the same awards season reception as Christopher Nolan’s pensive, Oscar-fated historical epic.

Those of us who caught one of just three showings of There’s Still Tomorrow during the Sydney Film Festival were utterly, unanimously engrossed in the film; I know I’m not just speaking for myself when I say I was hanging off every one of actress and director Paola Cortelessi’s subtitled words. So why, given its runaway popularity overseas and glowing reception here, am I among one of the few Sydneysiders that will get to see the film for the foreseeable future?

Set in the scarred remnants of Rome following the second World War, There’s Still Tomorrow is an overtly saccharine working-class drama that’s equal parts funny and stone-cold serious. The film is a feminist appraisal of an industrious heroine who escapes a life of misogyny and domestic abuse. It sounds bleak, but its frequently facetious tone is apparent right from the opening scene, where Cortelessi’s Delia strolls through the streets of Rome to a punk-rock backing track from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – later, OutKast’s B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad) also makes an appearance in the soundtrack.

The post-war Rome of 1946 is in tumult. American GIs line the streets, reconstruction is underway and women have just been given the right to vote. Delia is regularly beaten into submission by her violent husband, and when her daughter is proposed to by a wealthy local boy, she’s initially thrilled. Delia has admirers too; a concerned GI and a resurfaced old flame. But she also has a secret document that could be the key to her freedom. Ultimately, Delia won’t need men to liberate her. It is her own resolve that will steer her, and her country, to a brighter future.

On the surface, There’s Still Tomorrow might sound like a fairly stock standard tale of female emancipation with a touch of camp, but we’re talking about a black-and-white film that channels post-war Italian neorealist cinema with dialogue spoken almost entirely in the Romanesco dialect of the 1940s. It’s far more Bicycle Thieves than Barbie.

And yet, There’s Still Tomorrow has been a resounding, unstoppable box office success in Italy. It was the nation’s highest grossing film of 2023 (yes, ahead of even Barbie) and made more money domestically than any film since the pandemic. This is practically inexplicable. Even in Italy, where the events of There’s Still Tomorrow are rooted in a turning point in the nation’s history, it’s hard to explain how a black and white film that intentionally takes on an antiquated cinematic style could possibly outperform the biggest Hollywood blockbuster of the year. Because ultimately, even though cinephiles love them, these films rarely draw in the masses.

The There’s Still Tomorrow phenomenon is no longer endemic to Italy, where it won three awards at the 2023 Rome Film Festival and the Nastro d’Argento (the highest honour in Italian film) of 2024. The film currently has a perfect 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, and of course, it’s now won the Sydney Film Prize at the 2024 Sydney Film Festival. The only problem is, it’s unclear when Australian audiences will actually be able to see it.

As it stands, There’s Still Tomorrow is without an Australian distributor, meaning it’s indefinitely awaiting a theatrical release here. There’s also no sign of the film coming to a streaming service anytime soon. So, for the time being, There’s Still Tomorrow is stuck in cinematic purgatory.

There will be one final showing of There’s Still Tomorrow at 6:30pm this Thursday, June 20th, at Palace Cinemas Norton Street, in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt, after the festival announced a number of extra “back by popular demand” showings. Just like its previous three showings, here, the film’s final and most significant scene, where Delia’s apotheosis in exercising her right to vote reflects a monumental advancement in women’s rights, will move viewers to the point of yet another standing ovation. It is one of those moments that make you feel as if There’s Still Tomorrow is right up there with some of the best filmmaking of today.

At the time of writing, the festival’s ticketing website says places at the final session are “selling fast”. My advice is that you get in on the action now, or risk missing out altogether.

There's Still Tomorrow
There’s Still Tomorrow


The best films and documentaries to watch at the 2024 Sydney Film Festival

Costner, Coppola and the merits and risks of directors bankrolling their own films