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MOVIES: The Hand of God - Review

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In the 1980s, Diego Maradona, one of the greatest footballers ever to live, was not expected to join Napoli from Barcelona – until he did. As anyone familiar with his story – through being a football fan or watching the excellent 2019 documentary Diego Maradona about the footballer himself will know – his signing transformed the city of Naples, and he became a god-like figure to them. But being a god-like figure has its ups and downs and that is reflected through the eyes of the eccentric Schisa family, as we are introduced young upstart Fabietto – gifted but lost, roaming the streets of Naples without a purpose in life. He’s unsure of what he wants to be when he’s older – his brother wants to be an actor, and even has a shot of being in a Fellini film. The Hand of God feels very much like the perfect combination of football and cinema that are exactly the two things that I love, so it was an easy sell for me and I loved Paolo Sorrentino’s fusion of the two mediums – explaining how both can be as vitally important to someone’s lifestyle as the other – and capturing the ups and downs of all aspects of life felt deeply human, and deeply personal.

The Hand of God is one of those rare moments of magic where everything just works. I was destined to love it from the start, but Sorrentino is firing on all cylinders – the shadow of Italian culture lies deeply over The Hand of God, you see influencing figures like Fellini himself in the background. Here directors are presented as having the power to do whatever they want – one even calls out a one-woman stage actor live during a set for not being good enough, breaking her heart – and then upon being asked why he did what he did, it’s because he can get away with it because it’s him – normal culture dictates that heckling is highly frowned upon, of course. The film’s bluntness and hard-edged portrayal of a variety of characters really adds to the brilliance of it – the performance by Filippo Scotti as its core brings a sense of naivety and innocence to it that would be lost elsewhere with a different kind of performance and would arguably break the movie. His relationship with his parents and his neighbour baroness who lives upstairs is one of the key focus points of the film – and whilst the thread with the baroness didn’t really pan out as well as I’d hoped – felt vital to the film working in a weird sense. It’s a full circle – every high point is followed by a low one almost immediately, the narrative portraying the harsh inescapable cycle of life.

Nothing is sacred in The Hand of God and everything is perverse – it took me in directions where I wasn’t expecting to and delivered them with a nihilistic approach that was absolutely for me, whilst maintaining some degree of optimism. The personal approach is the biggest strength of the movie, and you can tell it’s inspired by real life events. The more removed I am from The Hand of God the more I’m absolutely in love with it – and it may well end up being one of my favourites of the year. Seek it out when it comes to Netflix.

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