Film review: The Hand of God
Paolo Sorrentino returns to the Naples of his youth
Whatever you think of The Hand of God, said Adam White in The Independent, “you’ll be Googling one-way tickets to Naples by the end of it”. The film matches the “dazzling maximalism” of Paolo Sorrentino’s 2014 Oscar-winning triumph, The Great Beauty, but this time we are not in Rome, but in the sun-drenched Naples of the writer-director’s childhood. It is the 1980s, and the city is “gripped with Diego Maradona fever”. Filippo Scotti – “think Timothée Chalamet with a bowl of spaghetti” – plays Sorrentino’s alter ego, Fabietto, a teenage boy who is “abuzz with excitement” at the prospect of the Argentine footballer transferring to his home city. But halfway through the film, Fabietto is struck by a “surreal tragedy” that sets him on a dark new path.
This sprawling film doesn’t so much unfold as “spill out”, said Tom Shone in The Sunday Times. Sorrentino piles the screen with melodrama – “there’s a beating, a mistress, a shocking death” – and though the film is “never boring”, it all feels rather thin. “I’m glad that Sorrentino has got this film out of his system,” said Xan Brooks in The Guardian. This “fevered coming-of-age tale” is raw, full of vigour and spiced with “delicious” set pieces; Sorrentino has clearly immersed himself in the milieu “like a pubescent Proust, to the point where we can almost smell the aftershave and tobacco”. Yet the director might be just too close to the material – at times his account of adolescence feels adolescent itself, “full of garish caricatures and crude sexual politics”.