This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
YI JIAN’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I simply can not believe that these people are non-professional actors. There's the malnourished Ricci played by Lamberto Maggiorani who was just a factory worker at the time. And his son Bruno, played by Enzo Staiola who was merely 9 years old! It's inconceivable! The way they put up such a sublime performance without any training.
I would imagine they were not really acting at all and was just going on with their lives as usual, (and somehow De Sica received permission to film them like how they do reality shows now) but I can not ignore the obvious fact that Lamberto and Enzo are not blood related at all.
Still, their depiction of a father and son relationship on screen is so convincing it's truly astounding. Just look at Bruno's confused frown near the end of the film, grasping Ricci's hands, who could no longer hold back his tears and finally broke down in front of his son, as they get buried into the crowd. Whether a gut wrenching, hauntingly depressing scene like this can work or not all depends on the actors. And these two novices pulled it off! My heart was instantly melted, evaporated, and exhaled out of my mouth.