The rejection of religion in favour of a belief in the advancement of humanity by its own efforts was at the heart of Italian Renaissance doctrine. Truth is always larger than any attempt to contain or suppress it, and the men who ran the church for centuries claimed to agree, although gradually many lost their own way, causing irreparable harm to others.
The movie God Willing (2015) commencing June 2, 2016 at Palace Cinemas in Australia is a comedy of manners about an Italian dysfunctional family and what happens when they have a head on first hand encounter with religion today.
This happens via a charismatic priest Father Pietro (Alessandro Gassmann) who is busy switching focus by moving the church on in mission. He’s a people person, one open to the ideas of others, an ordinary man who seems able to perform in a most extraordinary way.
Truly a ‘cool customer’ an engaging, pizza eating, some might say charming stud of a priest, who nightly arrives ‘on stage’ to rock music when he speaks regularly to a band of followers at a small theatre in the round. He’s like a breakaway branch of Hillsong all on his own, although instead of wearing mufti, he’s old fashioned and wears a priest’s collar.
He makes a number of notable points in his great presentation, which is much like being at a TED event, one that is brilliantly delivered and all about the inner life and what it is that God means for members of his church.
He is greeted by rapturous applause.
Directed by Edoardo Falcone who took out the Best Director prize at the Italian Oscars in 2015, Best New Director at the David di Donatello Awards 2015 and Best New Director from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 2015, God Willing offers a somewhat quirky often predictable insight into what finding faith and love in our age is really all about
It offers some fine acting performances, and both touching and silly moments, as the film satirizes the educated middle-class, who have an indomitable belief they are open-minded people, although most prove incapable of turning scrutiny upon themselves.
Tommaso (Marco Giallini) is a renowned cardiac surgeon thrown into complete confusion when his beloved son Andrea (Enrico Oetiker), who has followed him to medical school, arrives home from being away and gathers his family to make an announcement, one which takes them all by surprise.
Forewarned, Father, Mother, Sister and Brother in Law are all convinced Andrea is going to tell them all he’s really gay; instead he says simply he is going to become a priest.
Tommaso is clearly horrified, although extremely careful not to show it. We are all with you”, he leads them all to say, but their response is merely parrot fashion and is certainly not heartfelt. And, you can hear them all saying silently, what does it mean for me?
Like most men of his age and head of his family Tommaso has inherited the faith roots of the Italian church, which are steeped in the traditions of a patriarchal society alongside the beliefs and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.
He is an intelligent man, one who understands if he opposes his son’s choice outright at such a vulnerable age and on the cusp of his own great medical career, he will only ensure he’s more determined to go ahead.
So, Tommaso decides he will have to make a case for helping Andrea to change his mind.
Who knows he may even have to go undercover with the help of members of his hospital team in order to bring down this pesky priest and discredit him, and that is when the fun begins.
In an Italian family of yesteryear the news a son wanted to become a priest would have been greeted ecstatically. However in our contemporary world today with its serious issues of clergy misconduct and abuse of authority, the church has become something else entirely, especially for middle class Italians.
The Italian world values family above all else and at all times this fact is central to the plot, because its integrity and certainty of outcome is being thoroughly threatened.
In today’s world Tommaso is an atheist, a successful cardiac surgeon with a ‘God complex’ of his own, which has been coming on gradually through the years.
So much so he doesn’t notice any more that his attractive wife Carla (Laura Morrente), whom he reputedly adores, is very much depressed and hiding it, choosing to become a closet wine drinker, the secret place she goes to wallow in her own misery and unhappiness at living a meaningless life.
At college Carla was a radical, and so prompted is she by her son’s announcement, that she moves out of her husband’s bed into the maid’s room and goes back to college hoping to inspire today’s students to take a stand or radical action against the ills of society. They are patronising, finding her speeches amusing.
Tommaso’s daughter Bianca (Iliaria Spada) is thoroughly unlikeable, he compares her himself with an amoeba living a wastrel’s life. She’s married to a real estate agent Gianni (Edoardo Pesce) and they live in the apartment across the hall.
They come home to her parents place every night for dinner because she can’t cook. Her husband is a teddy bear at heart really, although no match for her intelligentsia father surgeon.
She reacts to her brother Andrea’s news by doing her best to find ‘God’ by reading the Gospels and by watching prayer meetings and religious movies on TV in the middle of the day
Gianni her husband the real estate agent, well he just keeps on keeping on and getting into trouble with Tommaso.
We can tell a great deal about Tommaso by his walk as daily on his hospital rounds, he strides out at the head of his young colleagues like a driven man, all the while downgrading Fratta (Alex Cendron) and Rosa (Giuseppina Cervizzi) with unkind aside satirical comments about their weight problems or performance
At heart however, he’s really a bit of a softie with a sense of humour, although you have to dig harder these days to find out where it’s been hidden for so long. When Father Pietro does eventually penetrate his armour well a great deal of laughter ensues.
Following Andréa and with Gianni as his sidekick, Tommaso wants to work out how to unmask the priest who has endeared himself to his son as really a rogue.
One thing we can be sure of is that it won’t go according to plan.
Watch out Tommaso, God is testing you!
Andrea leaves the house with his best friend on his Vespa and Tommaso and Gianni together also enjoy a Vespa adventure across the city to discover where the priest is based.
Actor Alessandro Gassmann is a tour de force unto himself, giving his priestly alter ego plenty of requisite charm, as well as refreshing subtlety.
Father Pietro’s generosity of spirit encourages and empowers each and every member of his audience to believe they should take up the challenge to move forward in mission because it will prove to enrich their lives.
Standing listening to his rival speak Tommaso realizes he now has a formidable opponent and will need help
His diabolical plan will require research and his son in law recommends his madcap bumbling friend Pizzuti (Carlo de Ruggieri) to assist.
Tommasso’s work colleague Rosa (Giuseppina Cervizzi) also gets involved, shining in her role as Tommaso’s husband beating wife!
What Tommaso doesn’t count on is how the journey he embarks on will forever transform his own life, well God Willing!
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Se Dio Vuole
Marco Giallini as Tommaso, Alessandro Gassmann as Father Pietro, Laura Morante as Carla, Ilaria Spada as Bianca, Edoardo Pesce as Gianni, Enrico Oetiker as Andrea, Carlo De Ruggieri as Pizzuti, Alex Cendron as Fratta and Giuseppina Cervizzi as Rosa
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
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Watch the Trailer