December 01, 2021
The Italian film-maker may owe his life to the footballer, as this vivid, autobiographical Neapolitan drama reveals
The Hand of God review – Paolo Sorrentino tells his own Maradona story
Paolo Sorrentino’s extravagantly personal movie gives us all a sentimental education in this director’s boyhood and coming of age – or at any rate, what he now creatively remembers of it – in Naples in the 1980s, where everyone had gone collectively crazy for SSC Napoli’s new signing, footballing legend Diego Maradona. We watch as a family party explodes with joy around the TV when Maradona scores his handball goal in the 1986 World Cup. A leftwing uncle growls with pleasure at the imperialist English getting scammed.
This is a tribute to Sorrentino’s late parents, who in 1987 died together of carbon monoxide poisoning at their holiday chalet outside the city, where 16-year-old Paolo might himself also have been staying had it not been that he wanted to see Napoli playing at home. So maybe Maradona saved his life, but it was a bittersweet rescue. The hand of God, after all, struck down his mum and dad and spared him. Newcomer Filippo Scotti plays 16-year-old Fabietto (that is, Sorrentino himself) at the centre of a garrulous swirl of family members. Toni Servillo plays his dad, Saverio, and Teresa Saponangelo gives a lovely performance as his mother, Maria, with a skittish love of making practical jokes.
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