This film is so affecting that I watched it with a near-unbearable anguish that prevented me from sleeping well that night. The plight of the old man should remind us of how important social programs are, in particular as the baby boomers age while resources appear to be dwindling. There is a real danger in the West of social upheaval between generations over the coming decade.
The plot is about an impoverished pensioner who had worked his whole life and could not make his ends meet in retirement. His landlady is cruel and dismissive, announcing that he must pay up or get ejected from the room he rents from her. There is an awful scene when he arrives home, only to find that a couple had temporarily rented his room for sex. Everywhere he turns, no one except for the live-in maid of the apartment has any sympathy for him, and she has her own problems to contend with. Even his old friends from his former civil service bureau will not help him. Without children or family, the only durable relationship he has is with a dog, Flike, who provides an emotional anchor for him that orders his life.
Though there are some maudlin moments, for the most part this is a starkly realist film, perhaps the best of the Neo-Realist genre in post-war Italy as many say here. This is a film that can rock you to your soul. It also ends with a heavy ambiguity, with the man on the street, unable to provide for his dog as he contemplates suicide. Truly a devastating decline.
Recommended, however much of an agony it is to watch.