Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti), an elderly man in Rome, is struggling to maintain a decent standard of living on his dwindling pension. He’s behind on his rent, and his landlady is threatening eviction if he doesn’t pay what he owes at the end of the month. Unable to get the money in time and feeling ill, he admits himself into a hospital to delay his financial difficulties, leaving his beloved dog Flike behind with the pregnant housemaid for temporary safekeeping. But it’s upon his return from the hospital when his problems grow worse than before.
I have no one, no son or brother, to help me out. I’m just a good-for-nothing old man.
Umberto D. was one of the last movies to come out of the Italian neorealism movement in the 1940s and 1950s, with some film historians even claiming it to be the very last. Revolving around the difficult economic conditions in post-World War II Italy, and directed by Vittorio De Sica, who helmed what’s perhaps the movement’s most famous film (Bicycle Thieves), I knew going into this movie it’d be a moving, heartbreaking story. I’ve only seen a handful of Italian neorealist films, but what I appreciate about them is how authentic they are in their approach. Just like Bicycle Thieves a few years prior, De Sica cast non-professional actors in Umberto D., making the events portrayed in the film feel much more honest and unpolished, mirroring what I’m sure many people were experiencing at that time in Italy.
Though Umberto D. has all the traits commonly found in Italian neorealist films, in some ways, it’s more uplifting than its contemporaries. The hardships the title character faces at nearly every turn of the film only seem to grow and get worse as the story progresses, but he still perseveres in trying to do what he can to make life more comfortable for him and his canine companion. And while Umberto does get to some low points as circumstances seem insurmountable, the bond he shares with Flike helps pull him back to carry on again. The film reminds us that even through hard, dark times, it’s important to try to press on because eventually, that time will pass.
Umberto D. (1952)
Directed by: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Carlo Battisti, Maria-Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari, Ileana Simova, Elena Rea, Memmo Carotenuto
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