This is a funny movie from director Vittorio De Sica, with 2 great Italian actors, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. Is this really a marriage, Italian style? Italy is a Catholic country and I imagine (never gone there) most of the people surely don't live this way. I bear in mind that 3 years previously, Mastroianni was in a movie called 'Divorce - Italian style'. The story spans in 20 years and in the background we can see changes in Italy.
Domenico (Mastroianni) is about to marry, sell his restaurant, and move to Rome (the story is set in Naples); when he receives the news that his mistress Filumena (Loren) is about to die. Domenico is a bit forced to marry her on her death bed, but soon after the priest left, Filumena gets up and it seems she still has many years to live. Domenico met Filumena in a brothel when she was only 17, during WW2. He came and go every 6 - 12 months and later moved her to an apartment. He also introduced her to his mother, but as a servant's niece. Filumena was angry when he was about to marry his new cashier and set a trap for him to marry her instead. Domenico sues her for trapping him into the marriage, and he wins. Then Filumena tells him that she has 3 sons, and one of them is his. But which one?
Filumena loves Domenico from the first sight and she dreams that one day he will free her from the brothel and marry her. He does free her, but does not marry her. He looks down on her as in his eyes she is always Filumena the prostitute, but he always comes back to her. She is so happy when he says he will present her to his mother, but the happiness turns sour because he is ashamed to tell the truth to his mother. Filumena takes care of his business - because he travels a lot - and looks after his sick mother; yet Domenico shares his heart and body with many women. However she still loves him, so at last she tells him about his son - whom if she told him many years before he must have told her to kill. She gives him a clue to help him find which son is his, but he cannot remember. She says: "It was the evening when you said 'Let's pretend to love each other.' You pretended, but I didn't. When you left you gave me the usual 100 lire. I wrote the date on it. When you were back 9 moths later I was pregnant, so you were told I was sick and I had gone up in the country. I return the money to you now. (but she tears the part when she wrote the date) One does not pay for children." He asks her: "What suit did I wear? What shoes?" and she answers: "What sort of person are you? You remember year and day of a pair of shoes."
There are 2 flashbacks, one by Domenico and one by Filumena. The fights between Domenico and Filumena are more a comedy, but when the sons appear the plot is turned into a drama. She has never told the boys that she is her mother. They know her face for she have visited them a lot. They have heard her name and stories about her. Will they accept her? This ends with a happy ending in a moving scene, and we all also happy because throughout the movie we sympathize with Filumena. She deserves the happy ending.