God Willing is yet another comedy about an arrogant atheist in existential meltdown brought on by a family crisis, but still good for some laughs.
The setup of this Italian Academy Award Best Director winner of 2015 has Woody Allen’s brand all over it, although not his style. The humour is gentle in nature rather than cutting and acerbic, accommodating both atheism and religion without dissing either – some feat.
The lead character, Tommaso (Marco Giallini), is a self-centred surgeon who arrogantly assumes his professional expertise extends to all areas of life. He casts a curmudgeonly eye on those who don’t measure up to his lofty standards, which is almost everyone. His son-in-law, in particular, comes in for some scathing (and amusing) criticism.
Tommaso loves his family, but is insensitive to their needs. He doesn’t notice that his gorgeous wife Carla (Laura Morante, who makes the best of her limited role), feels neglected and disempowered, and that his daughter (admittedly, an airhead) resents his dismissive attitude towards her.
Naturally, Tommaso is a committed atheist – his world ain’t big enough for two gods. He is appalled to learn that his son Andrea (Enrico Oetiker), inspired by a charismatic priest, Father Don Pietro (a terrific Alessandro Gassman), intends to join the priesthood. Posing as an impoverished suicidal sadsack in a catastrophic family situation, he seeks counsel from the priest, aiming to investigate and discredit him. As he draws others into his scam, all sorts of silliness ensues, taking the film into a farcical phase.
However, the last laugh is on Tommaso, for he develops an unlikely, mutually respectful friendship with Father Don Pietro, who ends up influencing him more than his son, much to the betterment of his family and other relationships.
As might be gleaned from the above, the shape of the narrative is familiar, and the story predictable. The central character, Tommaso, is a type we’ve come across many times before, and the minor characters, none of whom are developed beyond sketches, issue from well-worn moulds. Father Don Pietro is the only one who has any originality about him. Fortunately, the excellent performances compensate for the unimaginative characters, and save the film by delivering on the humour built into the screenplay. Nevertheless, the comedy sags in patches, and gives way to more serious concerns as the film approaches a sobering conclusion.
Entertaining and fun, no more, no less.
Movie website: http://www.palacefilms.com.au/godwilling/
Australian release date: Thu 2 June (at Luna Palace Cinemas in Perth)
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