The Children Are Watching Us

"Extraordinary"

The Children Are Watching Us Review


In order to achieve true cinephile status you must spend some time watching the classic Italian World War II-era neorealist films of the great Vittorio De Sica. If you've already seen his devastating masterpiece The Bicycle Thief, then move on to one of one of his lesser known but equally excellent dramas, The Children Are Watching Us.

The title alone is a serious guilt trip, De Sica's condemnation of immoral adult behavior that ends up damaging the innocent children who inevitably suffer the consequences of Mom and Dad's bad decisions. In this case, the adorable victim is five-year-old Prico (Luciano De Ambrosis), a wide-eyed only child who revels in the adoration of his parents (Emilio Cigoli and Isa Pola) and his nanny. Though it's wartime, Prico is insulated from the world outside until one day, on a walk in the park, his mother slips behind a tree and chats with a strange man (Adriano Rimoldi).

Prico has no idea who this man is, but he immediately intuits that the stranger is a disruptive force in his tidy little universe. Sure enough, Mom flies the coop with her lover the next day, leaving Dad, who is not a particularly secure or forceful person, devastated not only by his cuckoldry but also by the insidious gossip that sweeps instantly through his apartment block. Meanwhile, Prico just wants to know where Mama went.

Eventually she returns, but a reconciliatory seaside family vacation goes horribly wrong when Dad has to return to the city early, leaving Mom and Prico alone. Her lover shows up, and it all starts over again. This time, her betrayal of her son is even worse.

De Sica elicits a bravura performance out of a child so young he probably isn't even sure what acting is. De Ambrosis is amazing; you simply can't take your eyes off him. Be sure to check out The Criterion Collection DVD's extras, which include an interview with the now elderly De Ambrosis as he fondly recalls the kindness of the cast, the crew, and De Sica himself. Poor kid. He spends most of the movie in abject distress. It's good to know the adults around him were watching out for his well-being.

The final minutes of The Children Are Watching Us comprise one of those searing movie moments, with images you'll never forget. It's at this point that the title of the film really packs its punch. As an adult you'll feel guilty by association, and if you're a parent, you'll walk away from this drama reevaluating your relationship with your kids. Powerful stuff in beautiful black and white from a master storyteller supremely attuned to the tragedies of the human condition.

Aka I Bambini ci guardano.



The Children Are Watching Us

Facts and Figures

Run time: 84 mins

In Theaters: Friday 25th April 1947

Distributed by: Criterion Collection

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: Franco Magli

Starring: Emilio Cigoli as Andrea, Isa Pola as Nina, Luciano De Ambrosis as Pricò, Ernesto Calindri as Claudio

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