Paolo Sorrentino has made some exceptional films, including ‘Il Divo’ and ‘The Great Beauty’ (my favorite) but he says it took twenty years—and the courage he derived from watching Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma—to tell his own coming-of-age story in The Hand of God. I’m sorry he struggled so long with this project but it was well worth the wait.

The film’s opening sequences are reminiscent of Fellini’s Amarcord, revealing our adolescent hero’s mental snapshots of his family, a rich assortment of eccentrics—odd-looking, vulgar, intensely human. He remembers them fondly, in some cases lustfully, yet when his brother actually auditions for Fellini the director dismisses him as being too conventional-looking.

The boy’s emotions are dominated by the arrival of soccer star Diego Maradona in Naples. It is all he thinks about—until tragedy suddenly enters his life and changes his outlook. In the wake of that incident, and a chance meeting with a local filmmaker, the seeds are sewn that have borne fruit as Sorrentino has become a world-class storyteller.

The Hand of God is filled with the kind of detail that could only have come from observation—and memory. That one family could contain so many unique and peculiar people is a reminder that truth is almost always stranger than fiction. Who could invent an obese aunt who insists on wearing a fur coat (in order to show off) and spits out insults to everyone within earshot? Or a loving mother who insists on playing childish pranks?

Aimlessness, ennui, hero worship, grief: an adult appreciates that these feelings help build character, but a boy knows only the heartache they cause. I’m grateful that Sorrentino plumbed his memory to bring these episodes to life so open-heartedly. The Hand of God never strikes a false note.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

Subscribe to our newsletter


Maltin tee on TeePublic


Maltin on Movies podcast


Past podcasts


Maltin On Movies Patreon


Leonard Maltin appearances and booking


May 2024