Review by Dan Skip Allen
Paolo Sorrentino has had a very eclectic career. His film Youth in 2015 wowed audiences and critics alike and showed what he could do as a director. He had a flair for the odd and different. He then moved into the realm of TV with The Young Pope starring Jude Law and other shows. Now he's back doing feature films again, including his latest, The Hand of God.
The Hand of God follows a family in Naples, Italy in the 1980s. They live, they love, they argue, and they enjoy getting together for various occasions. The film primarily focuses on one member of that family: a young teenage boy (Filippo Scotti) who is learning about life, women and he loves his soccer/football team, Napoli. He experiences a tragedy and it changes him irrevocably, mentally, and spiritually.
This film has two distinct halves to it. The first part is a dramedy where the various members of the family interact at a gathering. They drink, sing, dance, eat and juggle, of all things. And the second half is a character study of a teenage boy who is dealing with a lot. He has to start to learn how to navigate this world on his own. The reason he's on his own is the tragedy right in the middle of this film. That's where the split in the tones comes in as well. It's like it's two different films in one.
A key element of this film is the beautiful game, football, and arguably the greatest player to ever play the game, Diego Maradona. Maradona was at the height of his abilities and fame in the '80s. When he was available for transfer, everybody wanted him. He ended up at Napoli, the home team of those who live in the city and surrounding areas of Naples. That's the main kid in the film. He and his brother were very happy Napoli got Maradona. as well as the rest of the townsfolk.
Sorrentino has a distinct style while filming this movie. It has an up-close, in-your-face style. The scenes look very realistic and up-to-date even though it takes place in the '80s. The colors from dresses and backdrops like walls and street lights pop off the screen. The cinematography and camera work are amazing. There are some absolutely beautiful scenes. The water and cityscape scenes are breathtaking. This is some of the best cinematography of the year. It helped make the film better in every way possible.
The coming of age moments in the film are very surprising at times. The main character goes through some growing pains. The tragedy in the middle of the film hits him hard. He has some anger issues and sexual urges. The tender age he's at is one that most boys his age rebel and act out. He's a little lost though and it takes a while for him to find himself. Football isn't as important as it once was for him. He realizes what really matters in the world. I think a lot of youths this age have similar moments without the tragedy of course.
The Hand of God is a pretty prophetic title. The meaning is what God decides to do regarding our lives means a lot. We're all given our own hand in life and that is at the core of this film. The fact that God decides our fate is a huge part of how and why this film works. We never know what our lot in life is going to be. And sometimes bad things happen and, God if you will, wants to see how we handle what we've been given to do in life. Some people handle it better than others. This film stands on this principle and it works in the end result. The result was a very good film.
The Hand of God is a very good film and has a lead actor, amongst a fantastic Italian cast, that holds his own and makes us, the viewers, go along with him on his journey of self-discovery. The film's cinematography and camera work are breathtaking. It's a great way to get into this film at the start. Along with that is the score which is very good as well. It had some nice somber moments as well as some bigger moments. This film should be considered for the Academy Award for Best International Film next year at the Oscars.
The Hand of God hits theaters on December 1 and Netflix on December 15.