The Hand Of God (4 stars)

The Hand Of God

Italian director Paolo Sorrentino offers his own mischievous take on a teenager coming of age

The latest film from the great Italian writer-director Paolo Sorrentino is also his funniest. It's not that his previous work has been lacking in laughs: This Must Be The Place was marvellously quirky and there were plenty of surreal interludes in The Great Beauty for example (and the idiosyncratic TV series The Young Pope). But his depiction of a fierce, feuding and highly mischievous Italian family delivers some genuinely hysterical scenes. The Hand Of God is a film inspired by the Neapolitan director's youth and, as that title suggests, is something that focuses (tangentially at least) on the antics of one Diego Maradona.

Beginning in Napoli in 1984, it pairs talented newcomer Filippo Scotti with old acting hand and Sorrentino staple Toni Servillo. They play father and son Fabietto and Saverio Schisa, with Teresa Saponangelo somewhat stealing the show as Fabietto's prankster mother Maria and Luisa Ranieri turning heads as Fabietto's maternal aunt Patrizia, a mentally fragile exhibitionist who he scandalously has a crush on. Though his parents can be naughty, Fabietto seems content to observe, sitting on the side-lines while the pair gleefully stir up trouble with their extended family and friends. Speculation surrounding whether SSC Napoli will sign Maradona is rife early on, while the footballer's first successful season with the club forms the backdrop for the remainder, though by that point Fabietto's attention is elsewhere.

The film's initially lascivious air is a little off-putting, with Patrizia sexually harassed and gawped at in the surreal and discomforting opening scenes, but such material quickly becomes just one facet of the film's enjoyably overblown style and its all-embracing approach to inappropriateness; Fellini's Oscar-winning Amarcord is clearly a key reference point, and the director even features fleetingly in the story. With glorious cinematography from Daria D'Antonio (who was the camera operator on Sorrentino's The Consequences Of Love, The Family Friend, Il Divo and The Great Beauty), it's all very artfully done. And Sorrentino generates some profoundly affecting moments, as things take a sharp turn from comedy to tragedy and Scotti rises impressively to the occasion.

Available to watch in selected cinemas from Friday 3 December and on Netflix from Wednesday 15 December.

The Hand of God

  • 4 stars
  • 2021
  • Italy
  • 2h 10min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino
  • Cast: Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Teresa Saponangelo, Marlon Joubert

The coming of age story of Fabietto Schisa (Filippo Scotti), set against the backdrop of Naples in the 1980s.