This time of year, when it’s cold outside (at least in the northern hemisphere) and a new year is approaching, warmth and relaxation can feel far away. Movies are always an escape, but especially when they take the audience to a place with water and sun. The new Netflix Italian film The Hand of God does this. Naples fills the screen and invites the viewer into a memorable atmosphere. This film is a strong coming-of-age tale in a gorgeous location.
In the 1980s, fans of football (soccer to us Americans) in Naples are abuzz that Diego Maradona might come to play for the city. Young Fabietto Schisa (Filippo Scotti) is certainly excited about it. Along with his parents and brother, he has a large and boisterous extended family. One uncle and aunt have a volatile relationship, his mom enjoys playing pranks, that kind of thing. Soon, though, adulthood comes calling for Fabietto through events both thrilling and tragic.
Stories like this can be expected to feature milestones that teen or young adult years are usually measured by. Such as sex and loss. This film has those plot points for sure, and writer-director Paolo Sorrentino makes sure to add a healthy dose of heart. The script feels as if it’s quite personal for Sorrentino, and the viewer does wonder how autobiographical it is.
Particularly when Fabietto expresses interest in directing. This allows for references to great Italian directors like Frederico Fellini and Franco Zeffirelli, which is fun for a film buff like me. It also leads to engaging moments, like the family talking about watching Sergio Leone‘s Once Upon a Time in the West and Fabietto’s conversation with director Antonio Capuano. I love it when a film can prompt viewing of other movies!
Sorrentino makes nice use of the camera here, and he takes his time with his shots. He is in absolutely no rush, and I like that. The beautiful Mediterranean just shines here. Its sun-drenched shoreline is a wonderfully evocative setting. If you haven’t already traveled there, this film will make you want to see southern Italy.
Of the actors, Scotti is a strong performer. He has a personable demeanor that is good to have at the center of a film. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a long career ahead of him. I like the casting for the rest of the characters as well. Some of the bit players are really outstanding and entertaining. They will stick with you after watching.
The narrative itself does have those elements that are universal to stories about the time of life Fabietto is going through. He’s finishing school and deciding what he wants his life to be. This film doesn’t shy away from the messiness that can come with entering adulthood. Viewers will find his experiences relatable, overall, and that’s important for a drama like this.
This film is Italy’s entry for the Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards this year, and it’s a strong contender. The Hand of God works well as an example of its genre and is just a solid film overall. Even if it is a bit long. I mean, who would complain about spending more time in the Italian sun?
The Hand of God is now on Netflix.