Deborah Ross

Nostalgic, episodic and Joanna Hogg-ish: Hand of God reviewed

Paolo Sorrentino's latest is set against the magnificent beauty of Naples – a town that, amazingly, existed even before Elena Ferrante

The fun, loving, eccentric family at the centre of Sorrentino's Hand of God. Credit: Gianni Fiorito

Hand of God is the latest film from Paolo Sorrentino, the Italian filmmaker who won an Oscar with The Great Beauty, made the political thriller Il Divo and, for television, created the wonderfully crazed The Young Pope and The New Pope. (Jude Law, who knew he had it in him? Not I.)

But this time it’s personal as it’s about his life as a teenager growing up in 1980s Naples. It’s mostly anecdotal and episodic and quite Joanna Hogg-ish but this isn’t to say it is without event. Midway through there is a pivotal moment, a shocking tragedy, but I don’t wish to say what it is as that would be a spoiler. I knew what it was because I’d read a Venice film festival review which had annoyingly put it in the first paragraph. (Thank you, the Guardian.)

Here, Sorrentino’s alter ego is 16-year-old Fabietto, played by Filippo Scotti, although it could have been Timothée Chalamet. He has exactly the same kind of pensive charm. Fabi, as he is known, is watchfully curious, but is also obsessed by Maradona and the fact that he may be coming to play for Napoli.

The family live in a modest apartment where he shares a bedroom with his older brother, who wants to be an actor. The family is fun, loving, eccentric. His mother (Teresa Saponangelo) adores pranks and is a joy. His twinkly-eyed older father (Toni Servillo) works in a bank and changes TV channels with a stick because he won’t buy a remote. (He claims to still be a communist.) The marriage has its difficulties but is also romantic and solid.

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