Review: A Neapolitan rhapsody in 'The Hand of God'

Image Icon
The Associated PressThis image released by Netflix shows Filippo Scotti, from left, Teresa Saponangelo, Marlon Joubert and Toni Servillo in a scene from “The Hand of God.” (Gianni Fiorito/Netflix via AP)

Paolo Sorrentino’s films can be overwrought, grotesque and uneven but they are rarely not alive.

His latest, “The Hand of God,” is a catalog of wonders — of miracles both banal and eternal. The glittering night vista of the Naples harbor. The soft thump of a motorboat across the water. The naked body of a beautiful woman sunbathing.

Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning masterpiece, “The Great Beauty,” too, was crowded with awe and sensation as it rambled around Rome. In “The Hand of God,” which Netflix opens in theaters Wednesday and begins streaming Dec. 15, the director has turned south to his hometown for an autobiographical film based on his 1980s childhood. Still, Sorrentino, a melancholy but ecstatic filmmaker with an eager, energetic camera, is in much the same mood here, finding divine splendor in the everyday and the profane.

“The Hand of God,” winner of the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and Italy’s Oscar submission, is a more personal detour for the 51-year-old Sorrentino. Its exaggerated cast of characters pull from his own family. Our protagonist, standing in for the director, is the teenage Fabietto Schisa (Filippo Scotti), a timid young man with a ball of curly hair and Walkman headphones draped around his neck. He’s mostly an observer to the family circus around him: his charismatic father Saverio (Toni Servillo, a Sorrentino regular), his prank-playing mother Maria (Teresa Saponangelo, terrific) and his aspiring actor brother Marchino (a tender Marlon Joubert).

There are other key figures, too, like Fabietto’s gorgeous aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri), whose suspicious husband is abusive, and Diego Maradona, the soccer legend whose unlikely acquisition by Napoli is rumored at the film’s start. When he does actually arrive, it’s as if straight from heaven. (It’s a feverish time brilliantly documented in Asif Kapadia’s “Diego Maradona.”) Both Patrizia and Maradona are like phenomena in Fabietto’s life, which here seems like a cartoonish picaresque until a tragedy jolts him and “The Hand of God” into a different realm.

We’ve had of late quite a few portraits of filmmakers as young people — Joanna Hogg’s ravishing two-part “The Souvenir,” Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast.” For Sorrentino, whose surreal flourishes, particularly the “La Dolce Vita”-esque “The Great Beauty,” have drawn Fellini comparisons, this is his “Amarcord.” (Fellini even makes a cameo here in a casting session scene.) But autobiographical doesn’t always feel like the natural mode for Sorrentino. As a master of decay and decadence, he has largely favored older characters (the politician of the propulsive “Il Divo,” the aged pals of “Youth”), and his orientation has been to make extravagant, stylish films of the world rather than of himself. That may be why “The Hand of God” is most vividly drawn when it’s looking around — at Naples, at the Dickensian supporting characters.

Many scenes sparkle, like his father using a long pole to change channels on the TV. A remote, to him, is a sign of unwarranted excess. “We’re communists,” he says. “We’re honest to the core.” I liked “The Hand of God” most when the parents are central, in part because of just how good Servillo and Saponangelo are together, and because the film grows more wayward and disconnected once they’re gone.

But what interrupts the flow of “The Hand of God” also propels it into Fabietto’s coming of age and leads to his new ambition: to be a filmmaker. Little about this revelation, or any other in “The Hand of God,” is completely clear. Sorrentino’s film is moving, in part, because it’s not totally reconciled to its memories — he seems to be still working out the past. Though Fabietto has only seen a few films, like “Once Upon a Time in America,” he’s driven to make movies when grief leaves him searching for a purpose. “Reality is lousy,” Fabietto says, quoting Fellini. His quandary recasts “The Hand of God,” and Sorrentino, himself, as a filmmaker seeking and storing wonderment where he can find it. His visual feasts are meals of sustenance to him, and maybe to us.

“The Hand of God,” a Netflix release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for sexual content, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug us. Running time: 130 minutes. Three stars out of four.


Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at:

News Related


Investment planning: Four cardinal rules of asset allocation

© Provided by The Financial Express There are certain rules of asset allocation that no investor can ignore. By Hemanth Gorur Asset allocation is a way of determining how much ... Read more »

DCB Bank came out with innovative schemes to help farmers and small merchants

© Provided by The Times of India AMRAVATI: Keeping in view of the challenges posed by the farming community and small traders since the outbreak of Covid-19, DCB Bank has ... Read more »

At 70, Jane Seymour's Entire Bod Is Toned AF In A Brand New IG Photo

© Jane Seymour/Instagram At 70, Jane Seymour’s entire bod is toned AF as she sports a knockout pink swimsuit in a brand new IG photo. She does Pilates on the ... Read more »

Is Jorja Fox Really Leaving CSI: Vegas?

Larry Marano/Getty While “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” may have wrapped up in 2015 (via IMDb), the series was partially rebooted upon the premiere of “CSI: Vegas” in 2021. Whereas previous ... Read more »

IS militants surrender in Syria prison stand-off

© EPA The SDF is a US-backed militia alliance that controls much of northern and eastern Syria Kurdish-led forces in Syria say another 250 militants have surrendered as they work ... Read more »

Dem Rep. Cooper won't seek reelection after GOP map redraw

© Provided by Associated Press U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, talks to reporters at his Nashville office, Feb. 16, 2018. Tennessee Republicans plan to carve fast-growing Nashville into multiple congressional ... Read more »

Covid claims five more lives in Chandigarh tricity area

© Provided by Hindustan Times The positivity rate in Panchkula was nearly 30% on Tuesday, highest in the Chandigarh tricity area. (HT File Photo) The Covid-19 tally in the tricity ... Read more »

Democrats file brief backing EPA in U.S. Supreme Court climate case

© Reuters/JONATHAN ERNST FILE PHOTO: A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington By Valerie Volcovici WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A large group of congressional Democrats filed a ... Read more »

14 Haryana cops to get police medals today

© Provided by Hindustan Times Superintendent of police (CID, Panchkula) Surinder Vats; and inspector general of police (Karnal range) Mamta Singh will be awarded with the President’s police medal for ... Read more »

IMD gives cold wave warning as Chandigarh continues to shiver

© Provided by Hindustan Times Maximum temperature dropped to 13°C, seven notches below normal, in Chandigarh, making Tuesday a severe cold day. (Keshav Singh/HT) There are chances of cold wave ... Read more »

Red Deer ER wait times balloon amid pandemic patient surges, ongoing bed and staff shortages

Doctors in Red Deer warn spiking wait times in their already stretched hospital emergency room are taking a toll on patient care in central Alberta. In the early morning hours on ... Read more »

Mohali crime: Auto driver stabbed to death at Balongi

© Provided by Hindustan Times The auto driver and his two friends were attacked by five men at Balongi in Mohali. (Getty Images/iStockphoto) A 35-year-old autorickshaw driver was stabbed to ... Read more »

FCRA licence: Supreme Court denies relief to NGOs that failed to apply

© Provided by The Times of India NEW DELHI: In a setback to 6,000 NGOs whose FCRA licences could not be renewed because of their failure to apply within the ... Read more »

Parents' fury after children ‘left freezing' after school bans coats in class – but NOT for teachers

FUMING parents claim their kids have been “left freezing” after a school barred pupils from wearing coats in class – despite teachers being allowed to. Holderness Academy in East Yorkshire ... Read more »

Lauren Smith-Fields' death during date ruled accidental — but family disputes findings

The death of a Connecticut woman who passed away during a date last month was ruled an accidental drug overdose by state officials — but her family disputed the findings, ... Read more »

India's Covid cases top 4 crore, third wave tally now over 50 lakh

© Provided by The Times of India NEW DELHI: Recorded infections of Covid-19 in India crossed 4 crore on Tuesday, with 50 lakh fresh cases added in the last three ... Read more »

R-Day preparations done, accent on Covid-19 protocols

© Provided by Hindustan Times A glimpse of the full dress rehearsal of Republic Day Parade, in Lucknow, on Monday. (HT Photo) With all last-minute touch-ups to the tableaux for ... Read more »

'Old Man' Love relishing reserve role with rising Cavaliers

CLEVELAND (AP) — Kevin Love bolted from his seat, a spot on the bench that has revived his career and helped fuel the Cavaliers’ stunning rise, and streaked past coach ... Read more »

Russian ambassador promises wargames are 'no threat' to Ireland

The Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, has defended his Government’s military movements planned for Irish economic waters. The ambassador said it was just “routine training” that had been conducted ... Read more »

DUP's Poots in bid to halt Irish Sea border checks

© PA Media Edwin Poots has threatened to halt Irish Sea border checks Stormont Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has taken the first step in his bid to halt Irish Sea ... Read more »

Up close with Cape Town-based author Qarnita Loxton

© Copyright (c) Daily Maverick , All Rights Reserved Qarnita Loxton’s Being Dianne, launched in 2021, is the fourth book in a series about the lives of four feisty friends ... Read more »

ESL Reportedly Aiming for Rio de Janeiro CS:GO Major

ESL plans to organize a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Dexerto reports. The event, currently titled IEM Rio, would be held Oct. 31 ... Read more »

Dialysis patients struggle to continue treatment amid COVID-19 surge

© screenshot Saksi Some dialysis patients unable to undergo procedure, COVID wards filled up Some dialysis patients have faced difficulty in finding medical facilities amid the spike in COVID-19 cases. ... Read more »

Russia-Ukraine crisis: Inside the top-secret tank base that provides Ukraine's best hope of defence against Russian invasion

Sky News is the first news organisation to be given privileged access to a camp inside a wood in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine where a tank battalion has been hiding, the barrels of its guns peeking out of the branches of cut down trees. Read more »

A demo for Monark, the JRPG from ex-Shin Megami Tensei devs, is now live

© Provided by GamePur Some JRPG fans may have had their interest piqued at Monark’s announcement. Coming to players from former Shin Megami Tensei developers, the new intellectual property is ... Read more »

3 sneaky Dota 2 ward spots that every support should know

The right ward spots will help Dota 2 support players rank up quickly. The vision game is an extremely important part of Dota 2. Keeping tabs on enemies is just ... Read more »

Biden admin withdraws Covid vaccination mandate for businesses

© MANDEL NGAN The Biden administration formally withdrew the vaccination or testing mandate for large businesses President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday formally withdrew the Covid vaccination-or-testing mandate for large ... Read more »

Apple Devices Are Already on Sale for Presidents' Day 2022

© COURTESY Snag some AirPods, a good old Macbook, the latest Apple Watch, some Beats headphones, an iMac, and more Apple devices on sales for Presidents’ Day 2022. Besides being ... Read more »

Smartfood's New Popcorn Flavor Tastes Like Doritos Nacho Cheese Chips

Another day, another new Smartfood popcorn flavor. The brand recently released Cinnamon Sugar Cupcake and Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut varieties, but has decided to go a more savory route with its ... Read more »

Inside the lab that's keeping frozen bodies and heads of 200 people

A model of how the bodies are frozen. John Kim/CNET A lab is holding the bodies and heads of 200 people in the hope that they can be brought to ... Read more »

I had a serious fake-tan fail – I turned GREEN and looked like Fiona from Shrek

A HEALTH support worker got a sickening feeling from fake tan — as it turned her skin green like Shrek’s Princess Fiona. Devon Birkett, 25, said she slapped on a ... Read more »

COVID in the Caribbean: CDC says to 'avoid travel' to these 5 islands

Federal health officials are warning U.S. travelers to avoid nearly every Caribbean island after moving Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin and Guadeloupe to its level 4 travel ... Read more »

Why are there no Premier League games on this weekend and when does football return?

FOLLOWING a busy Christmas, Premier League clubs are finally getting a break from stresses of competitive football. Not only was the festive period jam-packed, but clubs suffered Covid-19 outbreaks, with ... Read more »

Irish fishermen to peacefully disrupt planned Russian military exercises off south coast

Members of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation (IS&WFPO) are planning to peacefully disrupt Russia’s planned military exercise in waters off the Irish coast next month. The group’s ... Read more »

Taoiseach: Ireland 'not politically neutral but militarily neutral' as Ukraine travel advice is updated

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has described the situation between Russia and Ukraine as “serious”, as he confirmed that Irish people are now advised to avoid non-essential travel to Ukraine.  Speaking in ... Read more »

Garda investigation latest after corpse brought into Carlow post office by two men

Gardai are investigating after a corpse was brought into a Carlow post office by two men. Declan Haughney and a pal walked his uncle Peadar Doyle from his home on ... Read more »

NVIDIA may drop $40 billion Arm acquisition amid global concern

© Provided by Dot Esports Almost two years after Nvidia announced its acquisition of Cambridge-based chip designer Arm from SoftBank Group Corp., the $40 billion buyout—now valued closer to $75 ... Read more »

Gardai probe allegations two teenage girls were sexually assaulted twice by the same men

Gardai were last night probing shock allegations that two teenage girls were each sexually assaulted twice — by the same men. The Star has learned that detectives investigating the horrific ... Read more »

Charlie Bird reveals his voice is ‘almost gone' in poignant health update

Broadcaster Charlie Bird has revealed his voice is ‘almost gone’ in a heartbreaking health update. The former RTE correspondent took to Twitter to share an old video of him singing ... Read more »

Players can appear in-game with new Pokémon Go Gym Trainer Contest

© Provided by Dot Esports Niantic already gave out some details about the upcoming Pokémon Go Tour: Johto, but we now know that there will be a new contest for ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic