Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 Italian Neo-Realist classic, Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette), follows a man, Antonio Ricci, and his son Bruno as they search through the lonely war-torn city of Rome for the stolen bicycle that is Ricci’s last hope of holding a job, and thus of providing for his family. In an odyssey that becomes increasingly hopeless as Ricci descends ever closer to the thief who stole his bike at the start of the film, Bruno tags along beside and behind his distraught, self-absorbed father, loyal as a puppy. The pathos that De Sico creates between father and son through his on-location, black-and-white mise-en-scene and the perfect staging of his two male characters, the younger and the older, is incredibly affecting, especially as it operates on a largely silent, purely visual level, thus making the story of loss, love and survival optimally universal and heart-wrenching. Little Bruno, a visual miniature of the distracted Ricci, earnestly follows in his father’s footsteps and struggles to keep up with his larger strides as they move across the various landscapes, crowded or empty or broken, of the city; and always, through it all, he looks up at his father, into his father’s face as Ricci searches aimlessly for the bicycle he will never find. Of course, this look is both literal, for Ricci is presumably the one leading his son, whom he often seems to forget is there, on this hopeless journey, and yet it is also figurative, for Bruno wants nothing more than to be like his father. Unfortunately, his idealization crumbles; the disintegration of Ricci’s already-cracking masculinity and human dignity when he himself is caught trying to steal a bicycle, and Bruno’s terrifying realization of the truth of his father, are some of the most heartbreaking moments in all of cinema.