Latest Review – The Hand of God (LFF 2021) (65th BFI London Film Festival)

THE HAND OF GOD (È Stata La Mano Di Dio)

Dir. Paolo Sorrentino


Modern great Paolo Sorrentino returns to LFF with his poignant and impassioned new film, The Hand of God, a moving and often wickedly funny autobiographical tale inspired by his own teenage years in mid-1980’s Naples.

Sorrentino was just 16 when his parents were tragically killed by a carbon monoxide leak in their home in 1986. At the time, the young Napoli fan was watching his idol Diego Maradona inside a packed out Stadio San Paolo. Following the events of that night, it was later stated that Maradona had saved young Paolo’s life. He had been saved by ‘The Hand of God‘; a reference to Maradona’s infamous goal against England at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Thirty-five years on, Sorrentino has taken the events of that fateful year and moulded them into this bold and striking coming-of-age drama. The Hand of God is a rich and evocative homage to family, the cinema and the Naples of his childhood, and undoubtedly his most raw and personal film to date.

Filippo Scotti is excellent as the young Fabietto (Sorrentino’s alter ego) and he is supported by a strong ensemble including Luisa Ranieri, Teresa Saponangelo, Renato Carpentieri, and regular Sorrentino collaborator Toni Servillo (superb, as ever) as Filippo’s father.

It is a movie of two very different halves. Leading up to the tragedy, Sorrentino’s film is filled with warmth, colour and the familiar chaos of family life. We see a vivid portrait of life amongst a large and boisterous Italian catholic family. There are sun-kissed al fresco dinner parties and boat rides set against sumptuous azure waters, all mixed in with arguments over religion, infidelity and family rivalry, and a good dose of humour and vulgarity.

Following the parents’ death, the tone begins to shift quite considerably. Things begin to feel much cooler and more sombre as Fabietto attempts to come to terms with what has happened. Over the course of the film the young Fabietto has life-changing encounters with a whole host of eclectic characters on his adventures through the city that all help shape this crucial period of his life in various different ways. Understandably, the event was a major turning point in the young Sorrentino’s life and here the director uses Fabietto as a means to search for some sort of meaning and help him understand how that event shaped the years that followed.

Echoing the likes of Fellini and Tornatore, The Hand of God is a profound and nostalgic film, beautifully filmed and set against a glorious Neapolitan backdrop. It is typically Sorrentino, and fans of the filmmaker certainly won’t be disappointed.

For more information, and to book tickets, please CLICK HERE.

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