Two Women (1960)

Two Women (1960)

“Isn’t there some safe space in the world?”

During World War II, a widow (Sophia Loren) and her adolescent daughter (Eleonora Brown) flee bomb-ridden Rome for her home village in the countryside, where Cesira (Loren) meets a sympathetic academic (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who falls for her.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Italian Films
  • Refugees
  • Single Mothers
  • Sophia Loren Films
  • Strong Females
  • Vittorio De Sica Films
  • Widows and Widowers
  • World War II

Sophia Loren won an Oscar for her heartfelt performance in this refugee drama directed by Vittorio De Sica, and set during the height of World War II. Despite not naming her Best Actress of the Year in Alternate Oscars, Peary honors Loren’s win by noting that the award was likely given to her not only “in order to give a boost to the Hollywood product abroad” and to promote “Loren’s status as honorary American,” but to showcase “Loren giving proof, after eleven years [in films], that she was a skilled actress.”

Indeed, Loren is never not compelling to watch here, portraying an eminently fierce single mother who understands that survival is about compromise and resilience — skills she passes along intentionally and lovingly to her daughter (Brown). While there are plenty of smiles and laughs throughout the film — including as the duo befriend a soft-spoken but resolute Marxist (Belmondo) — an undercurrent of violence and disruption is ever-present.

This escalates in the film’s final sequences, which come as a brutal shock after we’ve grown to know and love these characters. Be forewarned that this film doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Sophia Loren as Cesira
  • Eleanora Brown as Rosetta
  • Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michele
  • Gábor Pogány’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, for Loren’s Oscar-winning performance, and as an overall powerful and heartbreaking drama. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


  • Noteworthy Performance(s)
  • Oscar Winner or Nominee


One thought on “Two Women (1960)

  1. Rewatch 1/12/21.

    A once-must, mainly for Loren’s multi-award-winning performance.

    What’s most impressive here about Loren is that, at 26, she was a bit young for the role – yet she doesn’t seem that young… which is probably due to the fact that she channeled her mother in playing the role of Cesira. It’s easy to spot all of the little touches that Loren uses to suggest that she is an older woman, most of them having to do with attitude.

    Cesira is a woman who probably became instantly more complicated (than she normally would have been) because of war. She has strong survival instincts – which cause her to give into opportunistic or other less admirable impulses (we even see her being both contradictory and hypocritical) while clinging to her basic humanity. What centers her is her concern for her daughter but even that can easily be (temporarily) damaged or compromised due to her heightened maternal instinct (or perhaps her Catholic leanings). She is therefore sometimes a bit too strong (or curt) in her behavior. But, again, we’re only seeing her in wartime.

    As her daughter, Brown may seem to be doing nothing much at all – until she is raped. Understandably, her performance shifts 100% as she appears to make immediate decisions about what life really is.

    It’s refreshing to see Belmondo here playing an Italian. Abandoning his own culture for a change allows him to show a different (and softer, more vulnerable) side, which he didn’t really get a chance to do much in French films.

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