It is not often that a film’s hero is upstaged by a child, but this is certainly the case in ‘Bicycle Thieves’.
7 year old Enzo Staiola was “plucked from the streets” of Italy to appear in this film and he arguably provides the World’s best example of “natural talent” in acting.
The film follows the story of a man, Antonio Ricci, in the depressed post-WWII Italy as he secures his first job in several years, bill-posting for the local council. Essential to the job is that he own a bicycle. Having just pawned his bicycle, he and his wife go to great lengths to secure it again… only to have it stolen on the first day of the job.
It is then, of course, not only the economy that is depressed.
The remainder of the film is spent following Antonio and cuter-than-cute son Bruno as they scour the streets of Rome looking for the bike.
I believe that this film would have been next to nothing without Bruno. Already very much a man at 7, he reminded me of a Baby Ryan (my older brother who was born with a wise old man’s brain between his ears). I suspect my super-intelligent nephew Baby James, Ryan’s son, will soon bear an uncanny resemblance to cute little “mini man” Bruno as well, although I hope he is not forced into work at such a young age as Bruno was to support his struggling family!
I have seen few films that have made me so thoroughly sad. I cried in The Lion King and Toy Story 3 like any normal human being, but there is something so very real about this film that makes it so heartbreaking. The puppy dog eyes of Bruno are little help.
About 3 years ago now, Andy was the victim of a very similar crime when his (VERY) expensive mountain bike was stolen from his locked garage. At the time, it was the most tragic thing to have happened in a very long time. I’m sure both of us spent months eyeing off every bicycle to pass our way, and I know I scoured the online classifieds for a bike matching the same description. We could certainly empathise with Antonio and the maddening search for his bike.
What was different, of course, was that the very lives of Andy’s family did not rely on this bike. Sure, it was a kick in the wallet, but truth be told he hadn’t ridden it in quite some time and he had another (less fancy) bike that he could use. While the sting of the loss is still there for Andy no doubt, the film certainly helps put things into perspective
You can call me a “spoiled Gen Y brat” if you like, but the fact of the matter is I’ve just never had to experience something as all-consumingly devastating as a depression. I lived my childhood like a child should. Though I started work at around 14 and 9 months, it was purely out of a desire to fund my own adventures and not through any sense of necessity. While my parents have deserted me for the past 3 months and left me to run the family business, it’s hardly the same kind of pressure as being expected at 7 years old to support a family of 4.
‘Bicycle Thieves’ is old (1948). It’s black and white and I had to read the subtitles because I don’t speak Italian. Nevertheless, I feel I must judge it for its time, and judge it for the simple beauty of the moral tale it presents. I must also, of course, judge it for the cuteness of its shining star, Bruno.
Have you seen ‘Bicycle Thieves’? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below.