Paolo Sorrentino’s THE HAND OF GOD begins as a kind of group portrait of working class Neapolitans in the 1980s. It has the feel of a menagerie of grotesques, and Sorrentino feels no politically correct restriction on mocking the fat, the disabled, the absurdly made-up or the mentally ill. This might sound distasteful and yet, and yet, over that hour we come to feel a kind of familial familiarity with these everyday oddballs, delighting in their joy when Maradona signs for Napoli and enjoying their practical jokes. We even come to admire and love the genuinely loving mother and father of the family, delighting in the depiction of an ordinary happy marriage.
Observing all of this loveable craziness is the younger son of the family, Fabie, whose quiet gaze is pre-directorial. For this is the third film in two days that I've watched where a director tells a fictionalised version of their childhood. And to be sure, Sorrentino is not going to spend the second hour of this film in rather trivial but engrossing depictions of life in 1980s Napoli. Instead, major life events occur that force Fabie into being the protagonist rather than voyeur of his own life, and of this film.
I absolutely adored this movie. It is by turns hilarious and tragic and strange and whimsical. I merely dock it a star for having had an obvious ending point (for me) in a cathartic playground scene, but lingers for thirty minutes longer.
THE HAND OF GOD has a running time of 130 minutes and played Venice 2021. It wil be released on Netflix on December 15th.