A young Senegalese orphan who has fallen through the cracks of the Italian social safety net winds up in the home of an elderly woman, a retired prostitute who has over the past few decades taken in many such forgotten children. She’s not much of a traditional mother – her house is a mess, and not much cooking is going on. But she knows the difference between right and wrong (as opposed to legal or illegal) and tries to impart that to her charges.
The old lady is played by Sophia Loren, a lifelong sex symbol who in this movie has the courage to appear as the age she actually is (86) – it probably helped that the director, Eduardo Ponti, is her son. Ponti also gets an honest performance from the little boy playing the orphan.
The movie doesn’t gloss over the gritty realities of life on the margins in a poor southern Italian city. But it manages to be life affirming nevertheless.