The story concerns the romance between Carmela and Antonio. Faced with the hostility of their parents, they symbolically shed themselves of all responsibilities to others in a climactic act of stark-naked bravado.
A more cheerful face upon the presence of post-war poverty and privation in Italy than has been shown by any previous film from that land is warmly and amiably exposed in Renato Castellani’s new comedy at the World, “Two Cents Worth of Hope.” As a matter of fact, the good-humor in this little film is so benign and the problems it places to the marriage of a man and maid appear so engineered that it is really less a comment on poorness than just a good, gay Italian family farce.
That is certainly nothing against it. As a lively and buoyant tale of the wistful and hilarious quandries into which a village young man and girl are thrown by the basic fact that the young fellow doesn’t have enough money to marry the girl, it is wholly and admirably valid in the entertainment line and throws out some fascinating sidelights on village customs and characters.
For instance, the horrendous tangle into which a group of hack drivers get themselves when they try to form a “cooperative” to run a station bus makes a grand lot of genuine native humor, and a little scene in which two mothers strike a deal for the marriage of a middle-aged man and an old-maid daughter, with the priest umpiring the deal, rings richly true.
The characters, too, are delightful and are reflective, beyond any doubt, of the typical villagers in the area of Naples, where Signor Castellani recruited his cast and made his film. A lively girl named Maria Fiore plays the sultry and eccentric miss who is prevented from marrying the hero by her willful father, the fireworks-maker in the town. And a strapping chap, Vincenzo Musolino, is grandly explosive and harassed as the poor man who has to support his family and earn a dowry for his sister before he can take a wife. As his mother, Filomena Russo, is wonderfully fluent with Italian gestures and moods, and Luigi Astarita, Carmela Cirillo and many others are fine in lesser roles.
But it must be said that Signor Castellani and those who worked with him on the script have used parental opposition only as a contrivance for their tale. When they have spun out sufficient complications and incidents with this device, they easily arrange for their young lovers to solve their dilemma naturally.
The consequence is that the picture—which, by the way, won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival last spring—is flavorsome and impressive, undeniably realistic and aptly paced, but it misses a convincing conveyance of the real pathos that lies somewhere within its tale.
— BOSLEY CROWTHER (New York Times)
Subtitles:English, Italian (muxed), English (srt)