“The Hand of God” (“È stata la mano di Dio”)
Metacritic (8/10), Rotten Tomatoes (****)
How we get to where we are in life often involves some unusual and seemingly disconnected paths that, at the time, may appear incoherent and wholly unrelated. Yet, somewhere down the road, when we go back and retrace the steps, we can see how they all combine in creating a mosaic of our being, as if bestowed upon us by an invisible source of Higher Power. That’s the central theme explored in director Paolo Sorrentino’s latest offering, a semi-autobiographical tale revealing how an unfocused Italian teen growing up in Naples in the 1980s found his way to filmmaking as a vocation thanks to the influences provided by a funny but dysfunctional family, infatuations with a trio of older women, an assortment of colorful ancillary characters, a terrible tragedy and the admiration of a soccer sensation. While the film is somewhat episodic and in need of more back story for the protagonist, it nevertheless provides an attention-holding journey filled with unexpected twists and turns, as well as the signature Fellini-esque quirkiness found in many of the filmmaker’s other offerings. The drastic changes in mood occasionally make the narrative somewhat jarring and ponderous, but, in that regard, this amalgamation of different tones evokes a realistic portrait of life, one that seldom follows a predictable and set pattern in its unfolding. Like most of Sorrentino’s pictures, this one won’t appeal to everyone, especially those with more conventional tastes. But, for those who enjoy a slice of the off-beat, this heartfelt rendering of the evolution of one individual’s singular life experience fills the bill nicely.