Andrea’s film review – The Hand of God

The Hand of God  ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (È stata la mano di Dio) Review by Andrea Carnevali

In 1980s Naples, young Fabietto pursues his love for football as family tragedy strikes, shaping his uncertain but promising future as a filmmaker. On Netflix from 15 December.

The latest film by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, Academy Award-winner for The Great Beauty, and more recently, HBO’s The Young Pope with Jude Law, is also his most personal, depicting his own life as a young boy growing up in Naples in the ‘80s, with his extended family and friends.

The is a film of literally two halves. The first part is mostly a laugh-out-loud comedy lived through the eyes of young Fabietto (Sorrentino’s alter ego), played by the charming Filippo Scotti, clearly wanting to be a new Italian Timothee Chamalet. Even the very last shot of the film reminded me of the one at the end of Call me By Your Name, another Italian export. Alas Scotti, however sweet, doesn’t seem to have the range and especially the depth of Chamalet.

Whilst this is supposedly an autobiography, there’s no doubt that Sorrentino’s depiction of many of the members of Fabietto’s family and friends have been inspired by the characters seen in those old movies by Federico Fellini. And so we have the overweight sister, the grumpy (and foul-mouthed) grandmother, all the way to the big-breasted aunt, who loves to sun-tan naked, the mentally challenged neighbour, and so on…

It’s all bit over the top, often veering towards the grotesques, but it’s also quite entertaining and we found ourselves constantly laughing, even though we knew we shouldn’t. Obviously some of the nuances are lost in translation, but the mostly British audience I watched this with seemed to have a great time.

If you know anything about Naples you‘ll soon realise that what you are seeing is actually not that far from reality.

And so a lot of the clichés you might expect to see from the South of Italy are all here for us to enjoy: people shouting at each other, men being obsessed by naked women, lots of lazy lunches outside in the open, people jumping in the sea all the time, riding their scooters (possibly with three people all crammed together and don’t even mention the word helmet), going wild for football and because we are in Naples, they’re all treating Maradona as nothing less than a God. And let’s not forget the Saints, jinks…and as the title suggests, Fate.

And it’s Fate, or “the hand of God,” that plays an important part in the film when an unexpected and abrupt accident turns this film from a comedy into a drama. But that’s also when the film became less successful for me.

For a start he is over-writing his script: everything is spelt out (“I can’t cry about it”, “you need to cry about it” “why don’t you cry about it?” gets repeated at nauseam); every moral lesson is explained (see the creepy sex scene with the old woman, or the meeting with a film director).

He crams so many details and characters into the story that at times he seems to forget what the film is really about: Fabietto’s dealing with a trauma.

Sorrentino’s aim is to try to restrain his usual flamboyant (or, as he calls it, baroque) style and camerawork to focus on the personal, but he seems to be unable to do that and often falls into his old trappings, creating an over-hyped sense of reality which takes you away from the emotional resonance that the film should bring with it.

It doesn’t help the fact that one of the most moving and cathartic moments in the film not only happens too way early (leaving a final act slightly exposed and baggy), but also happens off camera (a really bad directorial choice).

The result is film which is a real pastiche of characters and moments (some more successful than others) which are certainly bursting with passion, style and ideas, but don’t always hit the mark.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.

The Hand of God is on Netflix from 15 December.

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See also: November Books – Reviews by Annakarin Klerfalk

See also: Aladdin at the Lyric, Hammersmith – Review

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