Review: Two Women (1961)

Two Women or La Ciociara is a touching story of a mother, Rosetta (Sophia Loren) trying to raise her barely 13-year old daughter, Cesira, during the Second World War.

Rosetta is a woman broken by her loveless marriage and the war. She and her daughter leave Rome to escape from the daily air raids day and to seek a quieter existence in the Italian countryside. This is part of Rosetta’s desperate attempt to preserve Cesira’s innocence. They only discover that the countryside is not as peaceful. The final 30 minutes of Two Women are utterly heartbreaking. Rosetta experiences every possible emotional state imaginable.

This was my first Sophia Loren movie and I was blown away by her performance. I never really knew much about her before other than she is considered to be one of the most beautiful women ever. I’ll admit that at first I thought at the start of this film, when you are as gorgeous as Sophia Loren is, you don’t deserve to be that talented. Yet it is those final moments, when her character experiences the pain of being violated by men again and losing a loved one, of seeing her daughter hurt and seeing the war steal what was left of Cesira’s innocence that convinced me otherwise.  It is incredible to say the least.

Two Women is also very significant in film history. For her role of Rosetta, Sophia Loren received the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. This was the first Oscar ever given for a performance in foreign-language film. That has only happened two times. Roberto Benigni won in 1999 for Life is Beautiful; his award was presented by Sophia Loren.

All in all, Two Women is a film that is not only war and its disastrous affects, but the lasting bond between a mother and daughter that is heartbreaking and an overall rewarding movie watching experience.

Updated: April 29, 2011

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Review: March of the Penguins (2005)

In the harshest place on Earth, love finds a way…

It takes a lot to impress me at the movies and I speak for most people when I say that what I to know is why I just spent 10 dollars only to be mildly impressed. Seriously. The only two times I can really remember being completely enthralled at the movies was when I saw Million Dollar Baby in January and The Lion King when I was 5. This movie makes it three.

Now, my adventure to see March of the Penguins began when my big sis Kate told me showed me the preview on the web. Rarely do I anticipate any film, believing that I will only be disappointed if I expect too much, but because penguins are another one of my teeny tiny obsessions, I was excited for this movie. What made March of the Penguins so memorable was not only the film, but where I went to see it.

I spent four days last week with Kate in Washington D.C. and we wemt to see this movie, at the AFI Theater in Silver Spring.

March of the Penguins follows the Emperor penguins of Antarctica as they make an incredible and exhausting journey from the ocean to the place where they were born in order to mate and start their families. These penguins battle freezing winter storms, starvation, and sea lions all for the love of their babies. French film maker Luc Jacquet, and cinematographers Laurent Chalet and Jerome Maison, followed the Emperor penguins in their native habitat for the nine month mating season.

As I think about this documentary in retrospect, it does remind me of The Lion King. (Work with me on this one.) Aside from the obvious animal kingdom references and the notion of family, it brings an element to a film suitable for young children and that is the simple reminder that life is not easy and that not everything goes perfect. If I were seven or eight years old, the image of that cute and cuddly baby penguin frozen to death would forever be burned into my mind.

The film in the entirety is not depressing at all. In fact, it is a celebration of the animal kingdom’s ability to survive and outlast and how in certain ways the Emperor penguin, perhaps the most majestic bird on Earth, is like humans, searching for family and happiness. It is a breathtaking film that leaves a lasting impression on anyone who watches it. Believe me it is worth the 10 dollars to see in the theaters, unlike that latest Tom Cruise vehicle that shall remain nameless. And the added bonus is that you get to spend 80 minutes listening to narrator Morgan Freeman’s dreamy voice.