“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
- 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
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