Umberto D is Vittorio De Sica’s followup to his groundbreaking and hugely popular neorealist film The Bicycle Thief. The Bicycle Thief was one of the first films I reviewed for this blog, and it was also where I first learned that Italian neorealism really wasn’t my kind of thing at all, though I did enjoy the chemistry between the father and the son in that film. This time around, the chemistry is between an old man and his dog, and while the story may be different, this definitely feels like a spiritual successor to The Bicycle Thief.
The styles of the two films are very similar; both are stark in their visual expressiveness, opting for sharp and shadowy black and white cinematography to give off as much realism and forsaken imagery as possible. One of the tenets for Italian neorealism must be that the story be a very sad one, because for this film the story merely follows the titular old man (and his dog) as he goes about his poor, insufferable life, trying to make ends meet and stumbling along with the challenges life throws at him. Along with Umberto’s story is that of the young maid who lives and works in his apartment building, who is recently pregnant, and the closest thing to a friend Umberto has. This is a real downer of a flick; just when you think things are going to get better, the film turns around and goes right back down the path of despair. I don’t know if I would call this film entertaining as a result, but it does hold interest at least.
I liked this one more than I thought I would, even for its depressing storyline that never really gives any sort of upswing, even all the way to the end. I say this not because I was looking for yet another film with an arbitrary happy ending, but as a warning for anyone who might go into this expecting such. As long as you don’t build up any expectations going into this, and are open to a film of such sensibilities as Umberto D, then you’ll like this one. Well, maybe, I can’t really be sure; Italian neorealism is really hit or miss for people, including myself. Give it a try though; at 90 minutes, you don’t have much to lose.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10