The Hand of God is Paolo Sorrentino’s most personal film yet, re-telling key events of his youth in Naples, including the tragic moment that left him orphaned. His films have always had an air of melancholy, even when they’ve ostensibly been carnivalesque, but here there is a more distinct split between the hilarious first half and the tragic second.

We’re introduced to teenage Fabietto (Filippo Scotti), the Sorrentino proxy, and his extended family amongst the tumult of a lively 1980s Naples. This ensemble are mean, and not exactly models of political correctness, but they’re also hilarious, with loving banter punctuating every encounter. Teresa Saponangelo is great as Fabietto’s mother, who has a penchant for brutal and very funny pranks, while Toni Servillo is a loveable rogue as always, with a kind twinkle in his eye.

Sorrentino and his cinematographer Daria D’Antonio shoot these sequences beautifully, turning casual dinner table chat into whip-smart dramatic encounters. Sorrentino has always been brilliant at elevating the mundane, and here it emerges as possibly the heart of his cinema.

When Fabietto’s parents are tragically killed, he has to find a new zest for life, embracing all the things a teenage boy should, and deciding to become a film director.

Although that fateful night is staged powerfully, the aftermath leaves Fabietto’s story fizzling out. We don’t really feel the pain of his loss, nor is his change of lifestyle fully dramatised. At this age, he doesn’t have much personality – he is a pleasant teenager without much drive – so when his parents depart, the film suffers.

It’s completely understandable for Sorrentino to dramatise the tragedy of his teenage years in this way, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that The Hand of God would be more powerful if it was less faithful.



CAST: Filippo Scotti, Toni Servillo, Teresa Saponangelo, Marlon Joubert, Luisa Ranieri, Biagio Manna

DIRECTOR: Paolo Sorrentino

WRITER: Paolo Sorrentino

SYNOPSIS: The story of a boy in the tumultuous Naples of the 1980s. Sorrentino’s most personal film yet is a tale of fate and family, sports and cinema, love and loss.