As Italy wrestles with raging unemployment, filmmaker Gianni Amelio portrays the social fallout in "L'intrepido," a film about desperation and the courage to do any job to survive, which premiered in Venice Sunday.
"This film is an ode to human dignity," Amelio told journalists, where the film is in the running for the Golden Lion award.
Antonio Albanese plays a father who loses his job and is forced to take a vast range of one-off shifts which see him driving a tram, being a children's entertainer, washing laundry and delivering pizzas.
The 48-year-old Antonio, who keeps his work secret from son and ex-wife, brings wit and energy to each new task, embracing a football stadium cleaning job as willingly as he does an afternoon inflating balloons.
When a fellow construction worker assumes he must be Albanian or Romanian to be doing such poorly paid work and complains about immigrant workers going on strike, Antonio tells him "lucky are those who have work to strike from."
Just as Italians and immigrants in real life are being forced to leave Italy to seek work elsewhere, Antonio is reduced to going to Albania to find work in a mine.
Set in the financial capital of Milan, the film captures the anxiety and depression in a country mired in recession, where the unemployment rate is at 12 percent and youth joblessness at 39.5 percent.
A series of harrowing unemployment-related suicides splashed across the media when the financial crisis hit Italy hard, and the film evokes that desperation through Laura, a jobless young woman who Antonio befriends but cannot save.
There are few direct political allusions; what emerges is a portrayal of how the different generations are affected by the social stigma of joblessness or the realisation that there is no space in Italy for ambitions or dreams.
While Antonio clings to his dignity -- making a point of seeking work even if it just gives him a reason to shave each morning -- his son and Laura belong to the generation which believed it would all come easy, and suffer for it.
"I felt while playing Antonio that he was a part of me," Albanese said.
"I come from a working-class family. When I was 15 years old I began doing manual jobs and went on from there, supporting myself by doing all sort of jobs, from barman to waiter, to pay my way into acting school," he said.