Plying her trade in the worst parts of Rome, Cabiria (Masina) is a prostitute cursed with a too-trusting nature and a naïve longing for love. Humiliated by a string of manipulative men, she prays to the Virgin Mary for a miracle and finally meets marriage-minded accountant Oscar (Perier). But will he treat her any different than the others?
In this bittersweet, poignant early feature from Italian maestro Fellini, Giulietta Masina (who was married to the director) pulls off another demanding role with finesse and charm. Her Cabiria is a spiritual innocent thrust into the least innocent of professions, making her desire for meaningful companionship seem unattainable. Through it all, Masina radiates a plucky dignity that makes us root for her. Note: "Cabiria" is more grounded in realism than Fellini's later works, but this hardly detracts from the film's sizable emotional impact.