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(Review written in 2010)
Emotionally this film was great. It got great performances out of the actors, even though there wasn’t too much of a plot. The little boy in the movie was terrific. His father was terrific. Even the background characters were great.
But the tension that builds from the very beginning – the desperation and pain felt from all of the characters. It’s an intense movie. You start feeling as desperate as everyone in the film.
(And I was so nervous for that poor kid. I kept thinking something bad was going to happen to him!)
As for me, though? I like a little more than solid performances and strong emotions. Not much, but a little bit.
|Lamberto Maggiorani||Antonio Ricci|
|Enzo Staiola||Bruno Ricci|
|Lianella Carell||Maria Ricci|
|Carlo Jachino||a Beggar|
|Giulio Chiari||a Beggar|
|Vittorio Antonucci||The Thief|
|Elena Altieri||The Charitable Lady|
|Michele Sakara||Secretary of the Charity Organization|
|Fausto Guerzoni||Amateur Actor|
|Eraldo Da Roma||Editor|
|Vittorio De Sica||Director|
|Suso Cecchi d'Amico||Screenplay|
|Carlo Montuori||Director of Photography|
|Vittorio De Sica||Production|
|Vittorio De Sica||Writer|
|Suso Cecchi d'Amico||Writer|
|Luigi Bartolini||Story Contributor|
|Eraldo Da Roma||Editing|
In post-World War II Rome, Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) is desperate for work to support his wife Maria (Lianella Carell), his son Bruno (Enzo Staiola), and his baby. He is offered a position posting advertising bills but tells Maria that he cannot accept because the job requires his bicycle, which he has pawned. Maria resolutely strips the bed of her dowry bedsheets—prized possessions for a poor family—and takes them to the pawn office,[clarification needed] where they are exchanged for Antonio's hocked bicycle. (A memorable shot shows the sheets being added to a mountain of bedding pawned by other families.) They cycle home—Maria on the handlebars—rejoicing in their good fortune. Along the way Maria insists to Antonio's derision on leaving money for a seer who had prophesied Antonio would find work.
On his first day of work Antonio is atop a ladder when a young man (Vittorio Antonucci) snatches the bicycle. He gives chase but is thrown off the trail by the thief's confederates. The police take a report but warn that there is little they can do.
Advised that stolen goods often find their way to the Piazza Vittorio market, Antonio goes there with several friends and his small son Bruno. They locate a bike that might be Antonio's and summon an officer, but the serial number does not match.
At the Porta Portese market Antonio and Bruno spot the thief with an old man. They pursue the thief but he eludes them. They demand the thief's identity from the old man, but he feigns ignorance. They follow him into a church, but he slips away from them. Bruno questions Antonio, whereupon Antonio hits his son.
Antonio has Bruno wait by a bridge while Antonio searches for the old man. Suddenly there are cries that a boy is drowning. Antonio rushes toward the commotion and is relieved to see that the drowning boy is not Bruno. Antonio treats Bruno to lunch in a restaurant, where they momentarily forget their troubles, but on seeing a rich family enjoying a fine meal, Antonio is again seized by his calamity and tortures himself by reckoning his lost earnings.
Desperate, Antonio consults the seer who tells him, "You'll find the bike soon, or not at all." Leaving the seer's house Antonio encounters the thief and pursues him into a what turns out to be a brothel, from which they are ejected. In the street, hostile neighbors gather as Antonio accuses the thief, who conveniently falls into a fit for which the crowd blames Antonio.
In the commotion, Bruno fetches a policeman, who searches the thief's apartment without result. The policeman tells Antonio the case is weak since Antonio has no witnesses, and the neighbors are certain to provide the thief an alibi. Antonio and Bruno walk off in despair to jeers and threats from the crowd.
They near a football stadium. Inside a game is underway, while outside, rows of bicycles await their owners. Antonio sees an unattended bicycle near a doorway. He paces distractedly then sits with Bruno on the curb, his head in his hands. As he looks up a stream of bicycles rushes past—the world seems full of other people's bicycles. He resumes pacing, anguished and agitated, and finally gives Bruno some money, telling him to take the streetcar and wait at Monte Sacro.
Antonio circles the unattended bicycle, summons his courage, and jumps on it. The hue and cry is instantly raised, and Bruno, who has missed the streetcar, is stunned to see his father surrounded and pulled from the bike. The bicycle's owner slaps the hat from Antonio's head. As Antonio is being muscled toward the police station, the owner notices Bruno, who is carrying Antonio's hat. In a moment of compassion, the owner decides to let him go.
Antonio and Bruno walk slowly off amid a buffeting crowd. Bruno hands his father the hat, crying as Antonio stares dazedly ahead, unreacting even as a truck brushes his shoulder. They look briefly at each other. Antonio fights back tears. Bruno takes his father's hand. The camera watches from behind as they disappear into the crowd.
Theatrical : 1949-12-13 : United States of America
DVD : 1998-11-24