War throws up many horrors. World War II and the Holocaust showed the depths that humanity can sink to given the right drivers and propaganda. Much has been made of the atrocities of conflict, whether that be in the prison camps and on the battlefield. The plight of civilians in occupied areas has also been widely covered but it’s not always the ‘enemy’ you need to be wary of. In Vittorio De Sica’s award-winning Two Women, the dangers faced by a mother and daughter desperate to find safety are brought starkly to light.
Windowed shopkeeper Cesira (Sophia Loren) and her devoutly Catholic young daughter Rosetta (Eleonora Brown) flee Rome to escape the Allied bombing. They head across country to Cesira’s rural and mountainous hometown, Ciociaria. The pair struggle to survive due to a shortage of food. She meets Michele (Jean-Paul Belmondo), an intellectual and communist sympathiser, who is attracted to her and forms a strong bond with Rosetta.
The most striking aspect of Two Women are the performances by the two female leads. Loren, in particular, is superb and rightly won an Academy Award for her efforts (the first acting Oscar for a non-English language film). It’s beautifully shot with a new restoration which boldly brings it to life. Two Women is a tale of love, loss and tragedy. There’s drama throughout and romance blossoms even in the most harshest of circumstances.
Two Women is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Cult Films on Monday.