The Hand of God
by George Wolf
“Do you have a story to tell? Do you have something to say? Then spit it out!”
That’s solid advice from a veteran director to an aspiring filmmaker named Fabietto (Filippo Scotti, completely charming). But in The Hand of God, it sounds more like writer/director Paolo Sorrentino reaching out to his teenaged self.
Fabi’s life in 1980s Naples is filled with a steady array of colorful family members, neighbors, friends and passersby. They laugh, they argue, pull pranks on each other and cheer fanatically for Diego Maradona in the 1986 “Hand of God” World Cup. Fabi soaks it all in happily, his headphones constantly draped around his neck while his wandering teen eyes fall often on his voluptuous Aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri).
Though there’s much drama in and around the household (including a sister who never leaves the bathroom), there’s never a shortage of love or laughter, which makes the tragedy that comes in the film’s second act land that much harder.
This is clearly a very personal project for Sorrentino (Il Divo, The Great Beauty). And it often feels like a series of rather testosterone-heavy vignettes pulled from his memory, strung together with the majesty of architecture and landscapes that he continues to showcase so beautifully.
Though the overall tapestry flirts with self-indulgence before the young Fabi finds his calling, Sorrentino has crafted a warm and often wonderful homage to the people, places, and twists of fate that make us what we are.