'God Willing': Filmart/Hong Kong Review

God Willing Still - H 2016
Courtesy of Wildside

God Willing Still - H 2016

Painfully predictable plot enlivened by some solid acting.

Screenwriter Edoardo Falcone’s directorial debut is a comedy starring Alessandro Gassmann.

Winner of the 2015 David di Donatello Award for best new director (aka the ‘Italian Oscar,’) God Willing, a comedy-drama directed and co-written by Edoardo Falcone, screenwriter for Massimiliano Bruno (Nessuno mi può giudicare, Confusi e felici), takes on spiritual awakening and the religion-versus-reason dilemma with a predictable plot and glimmers of fine humor. Fashioned like a commedia all’italiana, the film uses farce and stock characters to satirize the educated middle-class, seemingly open-minded people who are incapable of turning the scrutiny upon themselves. While the stereotypes and expected plot movements get old after a while, the pic’s preaching of the importance of introspection and familial love, and its overall feel-good vibe laced with mildly funny moments, should lend it some appeal as wholesome family entertainment.

Tommaso (The Scent of the Night's Marco Giallini) is an atheist patriarch and successful cardiac surgeon who runs the clinic and his family with military vigor. He is arrogant, but — you guessed it — a real softie inside. He’s not unkind, just driven and callous. His subordinates, as do his family, fear and respect him. Giallini is more than adequate in the role, but as mentioned, the stylized acting quickly goes down the ‘Oh, not again!’ slope.

Tommaso’s son Andrea, a medical student, announces to the whole family that he wants to enter the priesthood. Horrified, Tommaso stalks him only to discover that Andrea, along with a bunch of other young people, is mesmerized by Don Pietro, a runner-sporting, Vespa-riding stud of a priest played with requisite charm and refreshing subtlety by Alessandro Gassmann (Transporter 2). Gassmann’s acting complements an equally nuanced performance by Laura Morante (The Dancer Upstairs) in the role of a wife undergoing an awakening of her own. Ilaria Spada’s acting is too contrived as the bimbo daughter to make any sympathy for her extremely difficult. Believing his son has been brainwashed by the priest, Tommaso sets out to unmask Pietro as a rogue, but things don’t go according to plan (of course).

The film makes a mildly interesting point about science being a belief similar to religion. The pear falls and Don Pietro says it’s god’s will; Tommaso says it’s gravity. Not quite the Nietzschean stance that science’s claims to knowledge are as deluded as those of religious dogmatists, of course — it’s there to keep the peace in the film’s conservative ecology. Clearly in this world, the integrity of the family is prized above all else. There may have been suspicions of homosexuality, even dabs into Catholicism, friendships with a priest, but the story would only evolve in ways that bring about personal changes in the characters that ultimately contribute to the integrity of the family unit. All other issues have the door elegantly shut on them through (sometimes unconvincing) developments of the plot.

The soundtrack and the costumes are obvious — whatever the mood of the scene or the character, they’re there to beat their drum. But God Willing is a comedy of manners with some fine acting by veterans of Italian cinema.

Production company: Intramovies
Cast: Marco Giallini, Alessandro Gassmann, Laura Morante, Ilaria Spada, Edoardo Pesce, Enrico Oetiker
Director: Edoardo Falcone
Screenwriters: Edoardo Falcone, Marco Martani
Producer: Emanuele Lomiry
Executive producer: Olivia Sleiter
Director of photography: Tommaso Borgstrom
Art director: Cristina Onori
Costume designer: Luigi Bonanno
Editor: Luciana Pandolfelli
Music: Carlo Virzi
World sales: Intramovies

In Italian

Not rated, 87 minutes