Vittorio De Sica's The bicycle thief, that's a regular in top movies's lists, is set in 1940s and gives us a glimpse of how the Second World war affected lives of common people in Italy.
After a year-long morale sapping wait Ricci lands a job of pasting movie posters. The job requires him to have a bicycle. With many other bicycle owners baying for the position, Ricci is left with no choice but lie that he has a bicycle. Quite understandably, he decides to worry about the bicycle problem elsewhere, not at the employment office.
Ricci's wife Maria decides to sell their linen bedsheets to get a bicycle. The scene at the market is a telling one. Folks collecting money at one counter for personal items (that are valuable but can't help them in getting by in troubled times) and buying necessities at a second one. Life definitely was tough on everyone back then!On the first day of his job, while pasting his first Rita Hayworth on a wall, Ricci loses his bicycle to a thief. Its a mob job clearly, another fellow,a decoy, leads Ricci in an opposite direction helping thief's getaway.Crestfallen, but determined to get his bicycle back, Ricci (his son Bruno in tow) search Rome's bicycle markets and closeby alleys for the thief.
Rest of the movie about his search is tautly narrated by the director. The kiddo who played Ricci's son Bruno is amazing. The scene where, after a long search he walks up to a corner to take a leak, when Ricci suddenly spotting the thief's accomplice shouts "lets go" - making him jump in his shoes is a laugh-out-loud one. After a listless search, tired and hungry Ricci has a moment of clarity - thinking of the futility of worrying over something he doesn't have any control over, he decides to take it easy for a while. He takes his son to a restaurant to have some good food and good time. This make-believe happiness lasts only a few minutes and then his loss weighs him down, his face falls. A touching scene.
Ricci once reprimands his wife for visiting a fortune teller, but with his loss becoming unbearable he can't help going to the lady asking her if he would ever get his bicycle back. And then there are the scenes that show his regret at slapping his son to take out his frustration, the moral dilemma he faces when he sees an unattended, unlocked bicycle by the roadside. Moving scenes!
No wonder, the movie is considered one of the best ever.