God Willing

An attempt to offer an amusing look at science versus religion ends up testing faith on screen and off.
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Faith is a fluid concept in God Willing (Se Dio vuole), though its characters constantly claim to be defined by their beliefs. Successful surgeon Tommaso (Marco Giallini, Three Touches) wholeheartedly and resolutely puts his trust in science. His son, Andrea (debutant Enrico Oetiker), decides to eschew a chance to follow in the doctor’s footsteps for a newfound religious calling, much to Tommaso’s displeasure. His wife, Carla (Laura Morante, Romeo & Juliet), seeks more assurance within herself, while his daughter, Bianca (Ilaria Spada, The Market), eagerly jumps on the spiritual bandwagon to compensate for her superficial marriage to Gianni (Edoardo Pesce, The Third Half) and fulfil her fickle existence. 

The family battle with the fallout of their contrasting quests, although all four want the same thing. Happiness, love and fulfilment loom as their desired goals, an outcome Tommasso sees threatened by the incursion of Catholicism into their otherwise atheist lives. A charismatic young priest, Don Pietro (Alessandro Gassman, An Italian Name), becomes the target of his ire, and the focus of his attempt to undo his son’s conversion. Accordingly, he makes a drastic and arrogant decision: to try to befriend and then discredit the cleric he blames for the change within his household.

That the protagonist adopts an exaggerated approach to his predicament is among God Willing‘s many outlandish elements in a feature that favours the blatant rather than the subtle. As often occurs when contemplations of religion play out on screen for amusing purposes, here broad comedy ensues. The key players argue and try to outsmart each other over a series of easy gags, and subterfuge leads to farce. What starts as a gentle mockery of the debate between science and religion, as well as of those who have firmly-held opinions either way, swiftly becomes an attempt to find the simplest way to evoke laughs.

Whether asked to play stern or pretend to be silly, Giallini fares best with the material, as scripted by first-time writer/director Edoardo Maria Falcone and co-scribe Marco Martani (The Mafia Only Kills in Summer). His rapport with Gassman provides many of the feature’s best moments, even if they’re tainted by ridiculousness. That the rest of the cast don’t reach the same modest heights largely results from a lack of variance in their parts. The crisis each traverses defines their characters, with little personality imparted beyond their clear-cut struggles.

Indeed, caricature reigns in both a central idea designed to provoke thought and poignancy yet always skewed towards obvious jokes, and in figures that exist less as people and more as methods to increase comic conflict. Thankfully, in what proves a handsomely shot effort, well-handled technical aspects add a small amount of sheen to proceedings. Alas, by the time the brief offering reaches its conclusion, wavering faith — not just for those in the film, but also for those watching it — is still the end result.

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

God Willing (Se Dio vuole)

Director: Edoardo Maria Falcone
Italy, 2015, 87 mins

Lavazza Italian Film Festival
Sydney: 15 September – 11 October
Melbourne: 16 September – 11 October
Adelaide: 17 September – 7 October
Byron Bay: 18 – 27 September
Canberra: 22 September – 11 October
Perth: 24 September – 14 October
Brisbane: 1 – 18 October
Hobart: 15 – 21 October

Sarah Ward
About the Author
Sarah Ward is a freelance film critic, arts and culture writer, and film festival organiser. She is the Australia-based critic for Screen International, a film reviewer and writer for ArtsHub, the weekend editor and a senior writer for Concrete Playground, a writer for the Goethe-Institut Australien’s Kino in Oz, and a contributor to SBS, SBS Movies and Flicks Australia. Her work has been published by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Junkee, FilmInk, Birth.Movies.Death, Lumina, Senses of Cinema, Broadsheet, Televised Revolution, Metro Magazine, Screen Education and the World Film Locations book series. She is also the editor of Trespass Magazine, a film and TV critic for ABC radio Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, and has worked with the Brisbane International Film Festival, Queensland Film Festival, Sydney Underground Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival. Follow her on Twitter: @swardplay