Film Review – The Hand Of God (2021)

In 1986, Diego Maradonna became public enemy number one in England. All thanks to his ‘Hand Of God‘ goal against England at the World Cup, whilst in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a patron saint. The Hand Of God is also the title of Paolo Sorrentino’s latest Oscar nominated film which happens to be his most personal creation to date. Heading back to his home city of Naples, Italy and his boyhood and coming of age story… or how he remembers it.

How Diego Maradonna fits into the story is simple, he signed for SSC Napoli during the time this film is set. The buzz in the city for then the greatest footballer of the time coming to then not considered one of the ‘big boys’ of Italian football. One of those excited fans was our 16 year old Fabietto (Filippo Scotti, Sorrentino’s alter-ego) who has a lot going for him in life. We find ourselves in 1980’s Naples in Southern Italy, he’s grappling with his adolescence as well as his hormones. Like anyone of the same age they are in overdrive. Fabi (as he likes to be called), lives at home with his parents (Toni Servillo and Teresa Saponangelo) and his older brother Marchino (Marlon Joubert) in a modest apartment in the city.

They are a fun family, they all love to play pratical jokes on each other and their neighbours. We also meet the wider family on a family gathering and they are as outlandish as them including the matriarch who loves to munch on mozzarella, spurt out profanities to everyone. When it comes to to Fabi’s hormones they are on fire laregly thanks to flirty aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri). She even baths naked leaving Fabi and all the men flustered and hot under the collar. Life looks good for him but things take a drastic tragic turn for Fabietto changing him forever.

The Hand Of God is a love letter to many things close to Sorrentino. From his loved ones, eccentric relatives, his neighbours especially The Baronessa (Betty Pedrazzi) who took Fabi’s virginity. After family, friends, adventure, girls and football are all important factors of an Italian boy’s life. It was a great time to be a Napoli fan and with Maradonna in the team too, the clubs most successful era. Fabi was obsessed I would have been too, then again I had Henrik Larsson in my team.

Reality to Fabi was disgusting and after the pivotal tragic moment of his life he finds his own life path . He would become a filmmaker, during the film we don’t see him head to the cinema. There is several times we see a film being made around the city, his brother auditioning for a Fellini film. When Fabi meets the director the outcome that filmmaker was a horrible human being.

It’s no hidden secret Federico Fellini is one of Paolo Sorrentino‘s cinematic heroes. The Hand Of God in a way could also be seen as a tribute to the Italian Maestro. A fever dream with nods to Amarcord and La Dolce Vita., searing, joyous, painful, chaotic and heartfelt. Like any biopic film we will never truly learn how much of the story is fictional and what is true. When it comes to life stories we all like to exaggerate, glamourise things, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

★★★★

Drama | Italy, 2021 | 15 | Netflix | Dir.Paolo Sorrentino | Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Teresa Saponangelo, Marlon Joubert, Betty Pedrazzi, Luisa Ranieri,

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