Two shoeshine boys in postwar Rome, Italy, save up to buy a horse, but their involvement as dupes in a burglary lands them in juvenile prison where the experience take a devastating toll on their friendship.
At a track near Rome, shoeshine boys are watching horses run. Two of the boys, the orphan Pasquale and his younger friend Giuseppe, are riding. The pair have been saving to buy a horse of their own to ride. The boys meet Attilio, Giuse's much older brother, and his shady friend at a boat on the Tiber. In return for a commission, the boys agree to deliver black market goods to a fortune-teller. Once the woman has paid, Attilio's gang suddenly arrives, pretending to be cops, to shake the woman down. With a payoff from Attilio, the boys are able to make the final payment and stable their horse in Trastevere over the river. The fortune-teller identifies Pasqua and Giuse. Held at an overcrowded boys' prison, they are separated. Giuse falls under the influence of an older lad in his cell, Arcangeli. During interrogation, Pasqua is tricked into betraying Giuse's brother to the police. With their trial still in the future, the two friends are driven further apart.Written by
The principle characters in this drama are a couple of poor children. These are kids to dig and scrap for a little happiness. One has not parents; the other's parent has her own problems. These kids seem to thrive on their own hard work. The war is on and the soldiers for whom they shine shoes continually put them off instead of paying them. They are also susceptible to money-making schemes and are sometimes victimized by bad people. After committing a petty crime, they are put in a boy's detention center because the police think they have done way more. Now the rules change. Where they had relative freedom, despite poverty, they are now at the mercy of a disinterested constabulary. The authorities need a confession. When none is forthcoming, evil manipulation comes into play. DeSica in this film and others of the time, show the natural destruction of the future of a culture, lying in the wake of Mussolini's fascist comedown. This is quite a wonderful film but very hard to watch.
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