Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: È stata la mano di Dio
Italy/USA, 2021. The Apartment, Netflix, Regione Campania, Film Commission Regione Campania. Screenplay by Paolo Sorrentino. Cinematography by Daria D’Antonio. Produced by Lorenzo Mieli, Paolo Sorrentino. Music by Lele Marchitelli. Production Design by Carmine Guarino. Costume Design by Mariano Tufano. Film Editing by Cristiano Travaglioli.
After paying tribute to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita with his own take on Rome’s glittering high life in The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino now dips into memories of his youth for a film that is more or less his version of Amarcord. Its picaresque narrative introduces us to a host of boisterous, memorable characters who are part of an extended Neapolitan family surrounding teenager Fabietto (a remarkably sympathetic Filippo Scotti), and proof of Sorrentino’s commitment to presenting something as poignant as it is aesthetically splendid is in his relieving choice to not have his protagonist give us any unnecessary narration over the soundtrack.
Fabietto’s older brother Marchino (Marlon Joubert) wants to be an actor and has the chance to audition for Fellini as an extra, their father Saverio (Sorrentino regular Toni Servillo) is a banker who is in love with their humorous mother Maria (Teresa Saponangelo), who adores playing pranks on people to the point of bringing quite a lot of trouble upon herself for it. Their other relatives include their aunt Patrizia (Luisa Ranieri), whose marital troubles with her husband have caused her to lose her mental equilibrium, described perfectly by the dreamlike beauty of the film’s opening sequence that invites us into her unstable world while eliciting a great deal of sympathy for her.
The entire cast are a series of often grotesque caricatures that we get to know as people, which means that when things take a very dark turn in the film’s second half and Fabietto’s life is no longer sun-drenched lunches and deep-sea swims, we are prepared to stick with this poignant bildungsroman that sees its main character through to his eventual coming of age. The actors bring vivid life to the rich personalities they have been given to play without ever letting anything turn to cute sentimentality, while a series of dazzling sequences maintain the director’s skill for creating eye-popping visual landscapes that never remain solely on the surface.
Academy Award Nomination: Best International Feature Film
Critics Choice Award Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film
European Film Award Nominations: Best European Film; Best European Director (Paolo Sorrentino); Best European Screenwriter
Venice Film Festival Awards: Grand Jury Prize; Marcello Mastroianni Award (Filippo Scotti)