Malena (2000) – Malena is about the peril of a beauty through the eyes of a 12 year old kid named Renato. He experiences three things on the same day, beginning of war, getting a bike and sees the arrival of Malèna in town. Through his eyes, we see the curse of beauty and loneliness of Malena, whose husband is presumed to be dead, and through his soul we see his love for her.
On June 10, 1940, in the fictional small Sicilian town of Castelcutò, a teenage boy named Renato Amoroso experiences three major events: the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini announces that Italy is entering World War II; he receives a new bike; he sees for the first time, together with his friends, the beautiful and sensual Maddalena “Malèna” Bonsignore Scordìa, who is the most desired young woman in town. Her husband Antonino “Nino” is in the armed forces fighting the British in Africa and she lives alone. Because of her physical appearance and her solitary status, she is an object of lust for all the town’s men and of hatred for its women. She keeps an eye on her father, who is the school teacher of Renato and his friends and also lives alone, until he receives an anonymous note slandering her, which causes him to reject her.
Renato becomes obsessed with Malèna, spying on her in her house, stalking her when she leaves it and thinking of her in all his erotic fantasies. He also steals some of her underwear from her clothesline; when his parents find it in his bedroom, they become upset and strictly punish him, trying to break his fixation.
One day, Malèna is notified of her husband’s death, adding grief to her isolation. She is said to have been with a lot of men; she unwisely fuels these rumours by allowing the young and handsome Cadei, a single air force officer, to visit her after dark. When she is denounced and put on trial by the wife of an elderly dentist, the officer sends testimony that he was nothing more than an occasional friend. The betrayal hurts, but Malèna says nothing to condemn him. After her acquittal, her advocate pays her a visit and forces her to pay for his services with sex.
Renato is very sad, because he wants to help Malèna but doesn’t know how, so he asks God and his saints to watch over her and performs small acts of vengeance against her detractors.
Meanwhile, the war reaches Sicily and the town is bombed by the Allies, killing Malèna’s father. Now penniless and universally scorned, with nobody willing to give her work, the only thing she can do to survive is sink into prostitution, cutting and coloring her hair and becoming compliant with all men. The townsfolk are happy to see her as a whore rather than a dangerous widow. When Nazi forces occupy the town, Renato sees his idol with two German soldiers and faints. His mother, believing it is demonic possession, takes him to a priest for exorcism, but his more practical father takes Renato to the town brothel, where he fantasizes that the prostitute initiating him is Malèna.
The Germans leave and American troops enter the town, welcomed by ecstatic cheers. The women accuse Malèna of collaborationism, storm the hotel and drag her out, ripping off her clothes, beating her and cutting off her hair. To escape further persecution, she leaves the hostile town and moves to Messina. A few days later Nino Scordìa, who has actually survived as a prisoner of war but lost an arm, comes back looking for her. His house has been taken over by displaced people and nobody wants to tell him how to find his wife. Renato becomes sad when Nino is mocked by former fascists and leaves him an anonymous note, saying that Malèna has always loved only him but has suffered misfortunes because of the war and has moved away, so Nino decides to reach her.
A year later, Nino and Malèna return and are seen strolling through the town. Women notice she now looks more matronly and plain, even if still beautiful. Since she is still married and living once again with her husband, people no longer consider her a threat and begin speaking of her and to her with more respect. While she walks home, some fruit falls from her bag and Renato rushes to pick it up. He wishes her good luck and she gives him an enigmatic half-smile: it’s the only time Malèna and Renato have an actual interaction in the whole movie.
Many years later, an aged Renato reflects that he has known many women, many of whom asked him to remember them, without success; he admits that the only woman he can’t forget is Malèna.