Bicycle Thieves is an Italian drama film from 1948 directed by Vittorio De Sica. The film follows the story of a poor father Antonio searching for employment to sustain his family. He gets a job, but the bicycle that he is required to have to get the job is stolen on his first day of work. He and his son search throughout Rome, desperate to find the bicycle. Antonio finds the culprit, but a threatening mob prevents him from getting it back. Instead, he tries to steal a bicycle on the streets, but is caught and humiliated in front of his son. The film ends with a deeply disappointed and discouraged Antonio and Bruno disappearing into the crowd, without a bicycle.
The film plays extensively with the audience’s emotions, taking us on a rollercoaster ride of feelings, from excitement and hope to desperation and disappointment. This play of emotions is what makes this film brilliant. At all points in the film, we completely understand Antonio’s feelings, and we can almost feel his desperation ourselves. Even though we do not agree with the actions resulting from this desperation, we can understand them and cannot stop hoping that his problem will somehow be resolved.
The most impressive part of the story is when Antonio tries to steal a bicycle, leaving all his morals behind. He becomes the thing he resents the most at that moment: a bicycle thief. To make things worse, Bruno had been watching him all this time, seeing his father doing wrong and getting caught. Despite Bruno’s clear disappointment in his father, he does take his hand, suggesting a sense of forgiveness. This forgiveness is such a strong symbol in which for a second, it seems like the tables are turned and Bruno is the older, wiser father and Antonio is the ignorant child. Together, they walk away as one, united in their disappointment and shame.