Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Movie Review: ‘The Hand Of God’ is Paolo Sorrentino’s Beautiful Childhood Memory Brought to Life

Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Writer: Paolo Sorrentino
Stars: Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Teresa Saponangelo, Marlon Joubert, Luisa Ranieri

Synopsis: In 1980s Naples, Italy, a young man experiences heartbreak and liberation after he’s inadvertently saved from a freak accident by soccer legend Diego Maradona.

In Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino’s (The Great Beauty) latest film, he changes his tone from the visually intoxicating to a straightforward story based on his own life. Newcomer Filippo Scotti plays Fabietto, a sixteen-year-old Napolitian boy living with his loving family and soaking up his love for Diego Maradona (“the best soccer player of all time,” as stated in the beginning) when he suddenly comes to the local club Napoli. The film’s title refers to a controversial goal by the late soccer legend in the 1986 World Cup that cemented Maradona’s holy status. This is the mid-80s, where Fabietto is living a beautiful life while he struggles to decide what he wants to do as an adult. However, he figures he has time while still enjoying his youth.

There’s his older brother Marchino (Marlon Joubert), an aspiring actor who is all about his upcoming audition in a Federico Fellini film, and sister Daniela who is always in the bathroom, never seen on screen. Sorrentino regular Toni Servillo plays their communist father who, ironically, works in a bank because communists need money too but will never use a remote control to change the channel. Mom Maria (Teresa Saponangelo) is always up for a prank, while the family always stares at the beautiful Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri) and her naked body who struggles with infertility and has an angry husband. Top it off with the fat, mozzarella-eating grandmother who always wears fur, even under the hot sun, and an obese relative who shows her new lover, a seventy-year-old former police officer who speaks with a robotic voice box, and the family celebration is a complete picture.

The first half is a happy-go-lucky trip for all until the midpoint when an unexpected tragedy befalls Fabietto. For those who know Sorrentino’s life, then you will know what happened, and now Fabietto is forced to become an adult earlier than expected. The second half of the film then becomes him trying to straighten out his path now that it has been wrecked and the weakness of the movie is how Sorrentino presents bit-by-bit Fabietto’s climb to moving forward. It is one step at a time, but it just doesn’t feel smooth transitioning scene-to-scene. You do see the seeds of Fabietto’s future being dropped steadily, the same path Sorrentino took to be where he is today. 

This is a childhood memory film (like Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast) that allows itself to breathe and touch the values of establishing your roots and never forgetting where you came from. He explores various moments and random encounters that are part of the road to growing up. A pivotal scene towards the last fifteen minutes where Fabietto meets one of his favorite directors who demands him to explain how he really feels and what does he really wants to say (“Then spit it out!”) is Sorrentino in real-life turning on that imaginary light bulb. It’s the one that created The Consequences Of Love, Il Divo, and The Young Pope. For this labor of love, it is good to see Sorrentino get his story and where he started out there in its naked exposition.

Grade: B

Follow me on Twitter: @bsusbielles (Cine-A-Man)

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