Europa '51

Director: Roberto Rossellini
Year Released: 1952
Rating: 3.5

Bourgeois couple Irene (Ingrid Bergman) and George (Alexander Knox) have their marriage greatly upset when their son Michele (Sandro Franchina) attempts suicide by jumping down a staircase and then dies in the hospital - in a state of profound grief, she visits and decides to help out society's less fortunate (prostitutes, mothers raising multiple children, etc.).  It does a fantastic job of showing, in the first act, how mentally ill children can harm themselves for attention - there's a lingering Oedipal element to that part - but when it shifts to Irene-in-the-slums I was afraid it would turn into a case of 'poverty tourism,' but no, Rossellini is too smart for that: her transformation from wealthy housewife to benevolent caretaker is developed with grace and expert precision.  It's tragic story, but the ending allows for redemption: Bergman's character is deemed "insane" by her husband (and the health officials) for her altruism and selflessness but that final shot - where she's applauded for her efforts - could make a statue well up with tears.