LFF 2021: The Hand of God
Paolo Sorrentino's coming of age tale set in Naples during Maradona's time at Napoli is a love letter to rowdy Italian family life but loses its way towards its close
It's telling that director Asif Kapadia decided to linger over the period Diego Maradona spent in Naples for his 2019 documentary about the Argentinian footballer. That film sets out to distinguish the man from the myth by scrutinising the rags-to-riches-to-rags narrative that followed Maradona throughout his life. In The Hand of God, director Paolo Sorrentino is interested in the myth only. Set during the same period, it paints the man as a god from its very first beat (initially at least).
In Fabie’s (Scotti) family, Maradona is the ultimate unifier. “I will kill myself”, says his uncle at the thought of the player’s deal with Napoli falling through. The hyperbolic nature of this Neapolitan family is the heart of The Hand of God’s first half, the dynamics between different clusters of cousins and aunts and lovers hitting a delightful intersection of great writing and acting. From Fabie’s parents (a fantastic pairing of Toni Servillo and Teresa Saponangelo) lovingly whistling to each other in lieu of “I love you” to a cracking recurring gag involving a speech-generating device, there is never a dull moment in this clan's company.
As The Hand of God dips into tragedy, however, this love letter to rowdy Italian families deflates, never fully reaching the ebullience of its early chapter despite the tenderness of its existential yearnings. With this sharp left turn, Sorrentino's family drama loses its way but proves he was, in fact, interested in the man after all.
The Hand of God had its UK premiere at London Film Festival and is streaming on Netflix from 15 Dec