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The Bicycle Thief Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 12+

Bleak black-and-white classic isn't likely to interest kids.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know a sympathetic lead character in this notoriously downbeat drama is driven to commit a crime at the climax, and the picture ends on a melancholy note, with no sense of justice being done. There is talk about getting drunk, though nothing comes of it. The film is in black and white, and seeing it the way the filmmakers intended requires subtitle reading (though dubbed versions are available). In Roman Catholic circles and Web sites this film is highly regarded (one subplot concerns a charity church service), though the emphasis is on suffering more than salvation.

  • Families can talk about the way the main characters behave. Ask kids what they think of Antonio's actions. What about what Bruno goes through?
  • Speculate on what happened to the characters after the movie ends. Ask kids if there was ever a low time in their life when they felt as helpless as the people here. How did things turn out?
  • Discuss conditions in Europe right after WWII, when rationing, poverty, refugees, and unemployment hit even the victorious countries (like Britain). Compare and contrast that with the war's aftermath in the USA.

The good stuff
  • message true2

    Messages: The simple structure of the tale has led to numerous interpretations -- everything from the basic "life is unfair," to a highfalutin' metaphor for the world's voiceless urban lower classes. Antonio painfully looking for the bicycle on which his family's future depends reflects the working poor on a desperate quest for meaning and dignity.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Unglamorously-depicted lead characters are a hardworking poor family, uneducated but honest, though Antonio ultimately lets desperation drive him to break the law. Police and, to a certain extent, the Catholic Church, are present to "help" but don't solve the dilemma.

What to watch for
  • violence false1

    Violence: A few near-scuffles. A character suffers (or pretends to suffer) a kind of seizure under pressure. A father hits his son.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Not an issue

  • language false1

    Language: "Damn it" is about as bad is it gets.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false1

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Antonio talks about getting drunk. Wine served in a restaurant setting.