A 12-year-old boy gets fired from a job as a gravedigger when his age is found out, so how he hawks crap and scams people on the black market (and he's constantly getting stuff stolen by adults, and gets near-molested by an ex-teacher that helps him out)...his sister prositutes herself to Americans soldiers every night of the week...their brother won't go sign up for a permit to get work because he's a former Nazi soldier, and is afraid of being found out...their father is an invalid who constantly yearns to end his life, and they all live together with four other families in a tiny apartment they can't pay for, with a landlord with a short fuse.
Ahh, soak in the joys of post-war Germany.
In one of the most bleak and nihilistic films I've ever seen, this is a story of a family whose lives are hopeless at film's opening, and are even worse by the final reel...of course, this is the film's intent, and both Germany and director Roberto Rossellini's home country of Italy were really like this in the late '40s, and neorealism was born as much out of the dour, depressing reality of life as the limited supplies...
So I will end this review with what is essentially the neorealist credo: Life sucks, and then you die. Indeed.