Leonard Maltin's Rating :
Should be :
IMDB Rating : 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 80%
In his 2008 book Leonard gave this movie 1 1/2 stars. He probably realizes he made a big mistake and it might have seemed silly to jump from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 or 4 stars so he pulled his review from his newest book. The review (from the 2008 edition) says "Obvious, slow moving story".
Also known as The Greatest Love, this was the second collaboration of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellin after making Stromboli together. Rossellini decided to make a movie about what it would be like if a saint, like St. Francis of Assisi, was placed in post-war Italy.
Irene (Bergman) and George (Alexander Knox) are wealthy and host parties for their cultured friends but ignore their ten year old son. When George was away at the war, Irene spent a great deal of time with their son Michele, but after the war he feels ignored.
Micheele throws himself down the stairs, perhaps to get attention, perhaps to try to kill himself. Irene resolves to change her ways and pay more attention to the boy, but Michele soon dies from his injuries. Irene can hardly function, but soon everyone is telling her she has to get on with her life.
Irene’s friend Andrea (a male), tries to comfort her in her grief. Irene obsesses over what she should have, or could have done differently to have prevented Michele's death. Andrea tells her she should blame the post-war society. The boy was brought up in a world full of fear. Andrea tells her about a family, the Galli's, that comes to his clinic, and have a boy who is going to die because they can't afford the money that they need for his medicine. Irene tells him that she will pay for what the boy needs.
Andrea and Irene travel in to the slums and bring the Galli's the money they need for the boy. Irene sees how the other half lives and begins to change the way she lives her life. Before she was concerned about society, and being popular. Now she is most concerned about helping others.
George gets fed up with Irene and her lack of affection. Irene begins spending more and more time with Andrea, who is a communist. Irene agrees with many of Andrea's views, but not the violence he also espouses. Irene is searching for a more spiritual path.
As Irene ministers to the poor and suffering, she grows further and further away from her family. Irene helps a boy who is wanted by the police and then she is arrested and imprisoned for helping him. Because she has also separated from her husband the officials decide to put Irene in a metal institution.
A beautiful movie by Rossellini about Europe in 1951. Almost everyone had lost a family member or a friend to the destruction of World War II. What should one do? Sit back and grieve or go out and make the world a better place. Irene decides to live again.
The secondary character's voices were dubbed, and the poor dubbing does take away from the movie. But the movie is just so good. A wonderful story, with wonderful acting. I hope Leonard puts it back in his book with a much higher rating.