The World of Apu seems to me not only the most successful, the most brilliant, the most moving, and the most important of the three parts of Mr. Ray's trilogy, but also probably the most important single film made since the introduction of sound. (p. 53)
It's difficult to give the full flavor of this film; it's difficult to describe the extraordinary success with which Ray has succeeded in stripping away several more veils from reality than any film-maker has ever removed before. Moreover, here at last is a student of film history who is able to absorb the best of the heritage handed down to him by the great film-makers of the twenties' and thirties' and fifties', to redigest and to improve on the originals. The dialogue is not only sophisticated but often genuinely surprising. The scenes at the end of the film involving Apu's five-year-old son and Apu's struggle to communicate with this boy whom he has never seen before represent perhaps the most moving portrayal of a father-son relationship in any motion picture ever made. Though they closely resemble some of the scenes in The Bicycle Thief, there is a surprising and even dazzling quality to them, which lifts them well above the DeSica-Zavattini work. (p. 54)
Jonathan Harker, "'The World of Apu'," in Film Quarterly (copyright 1960 by The Regents of the University of California; reprinted by permission of the University of California Press), Vol. XIII, No. 3, Spring, 1960, pp. 53-5.