Mamma Roma (Magnani) is a middle-aged prostitute with both the means and intention to leave her old life behind. After years of saving, she goes to reclaim her teenage son Ettore (Garofalo) and returns with him to Rome to lead a peaceful, middle-class existence. But things don't quite turn out as planned, especially when she runs into her former pimp.
In his first feature film, Pasolini uses a neorealist aesthetic to critique petit-bourgeois mores, training his sights on a poor outcast who strives and fails to become a respectable member of Italy's postwar society. Played to triumphant perfection by the fiery Anna Magnani, Mamma Roma is a hearty, proud woman willing to do anything for her boy, and Ettore Garofalo is appealing and believable as her son. An early gem by an Italian master, "Mamma Roma" is a moving, perceptive study of how love and sacrifice can still lead to an unjust outcome.