The Hand of God movie review: A familiar tale of love and grief
Processing grief is a personal experience and Fabio (Filippo Scotti) in The Hand of God introduces his loss to us by allowing us to sneak a peek into his family in the 80s.
Processing grief is a personal experience and Fabio (Filippo Scotti) introduces his loss to us by allowing us to sneak a peek into his family in the 80s. The dynamics in The Hand of God are boisterous, contradictory, and often, toxic as well, and yet, the love they share is intense. Fabio's father Saverio (Toni Servillo), and his mother Maria (Teresa Saponangelo) share an enchanting kind of love.
They whistle to indicate their moods, have inside jokes... However, an office flirtation results in fights loud enough to trigger Fabio's panic attack, and Fabio's brother, Marchino (Marlon Joubert), steps in with a helping hand.
The fights, the affairs, the obtrusive male gaze on the female form - all of this is presented to us, and we are allowed to draw our conclusions. The contradiction of a happy family in a toxic setting underlines the complexity of what it means to belong in a dynamic Italian family.
The Hand of God is a piece that documents the life of a young man who loses his family, while on the cusp of adulthood. Filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, well-known for work like The Great Beauty, draws inspiration from Federico Fellini, in how he presents the growing up of Fabio.
The young man has hopes and dreams, and one of them is to see Maradona in a match while another is a fantasy that involves his aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri). He shares this secret desire through his sexual gaze. However, he doesn't put his feelings for her in words. His whimsical relationship with her also grounds him at a time when he finds himself to be lost.
Fabio's journey is indicative of his quest to discover a method to the madness that is grief. Grief, after all, is learning to let go of the pain of loss, even while retaining all the love. This autobiographical film captures this process in a way that is cathartic for the viewer.
We see Fabio grow into his own while he grieves. His moments of wonder for filmmaking foreshadow how he would come to depend on it to bury the all-consuming depression that debilitates him when he gets reminded of loss.
Be it the baroness who introduces him to lovemaking or his brother who tells him that life is more than just grieving, additional characters play an important role in the making of this man. The final moment where Fabio puts on his headphones to a moment of pin-drop silence is a wonderful metaphor for him rising over his grief.
It's a momentary reminder of the people he has lost, even if he doesn't bear the fingerprints of pain anymore. Such moments help make The Hand of God an incisive, deep exploration of the universation emotion of grief.