Umberto D. (1952)

Umberto D. (1952)

“She’s hoping I’ll die — but I’m not going to.”

A poverty-stricken pensioner (Carlo Battisti) living with his beloved dog Flike (Napoleone) seeks helps from a pregnant young maid (Maria Pia Casilio) in preventing eviction by his unfeeling landlady (Lina Gennari) — but Maria has problems of her own, and none of Umberto D. (Battisti’s) longtime friends seem willing or able to help him out financially.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Elderly People
  • Italian Films
  • Pets
  • Survival
  • Vittorio De Sica Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that in this “sad but beautiful postwar social drama” — focusing “on an individual member of the dispossessed aged” — director Vittorio De Sica wisely doesn’t “make his hero into a sweet grandfather type whom you automatically love and feel sorry for,” instead showing “his gruff exterior and stubbornness” — though we also see “his loving gestures towards his dog and his concern for the lovely unmarried young maid (Maria Pia Casilio), who is pregnant and will soon be cast into the street by the landlady.”

Peary points out that this “realistic film has many deeply moving sequences — you won’t forget Umberto sitting in his room, which has been virtually destroyed because the landlady is having it converted into a parlor”:

… “or Umberto searching for his dog at the pound”:

… “or the maid silently going through her morning routine while obviously thinking of her unhappy future.”

An ongoing theme of the film is that Umberto is “too proud to ask his well-off acquaintances for a needed loan (and they never offer it)”:

… “or join the growing number of beggars in the city” — though he does attempt to sell as many of his items as possible to collect money for his back rent.

However, “Umberto feels increasingly lost and tired, and would commit suicide if he didn’t worry about the welfare of [his] dog.”

Umberto D. is an emotionally challenging film to watch, especially given how strongly its central issues continue to resonate today — we’re not a whole lot closer to providing any kind of security to those living on the margins of survival. As usual, it’s non-governmental organizations that step up to provide a safety net, as when Umberto goes to a private Catholic hospital to recover from tonsillitis and receives a week of care, shelter, and steady food:

Meanwhile, the unfeeling nature of the ever-present bourgeoise is epitomized by Umberto’s self-absorbed landlady, who bears a passing resemblance to Lana Turner:

This neo-realistic classic (often considered the final film of the “movement”) remains well worth a look by all film fanatics — who should nonetheless be prepared to shed some well-deserved tears, especially during the moments leading up to the “glorious final shot, which allows Umberto D., Flike, and us at least a moment of relief.”

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Carlo Battisti as Umberto D.
  • Maria Pia Casilio as Maria
  • Fine use of location shooting in Rome
  • G.R. Aldo’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a foreign classic.


  • Foreign Gem
  • Genuine Classic

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Umberto D. (1952)

  1. A once-must, for its place in Italian cinema history. The average viewer probably wouldn’t want to watch it more than once; it’s quite depressing but, aside from that, its impact isn’t easily forgotten.

    That penultimate moment when Flike senses the oncoming train… combined with Umberto’s retreating reaction… very powerful and heartbreaking.

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