Magazine article Screen International

'Pope Francis - A Man of His Word': Cannes Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Pope Francis - A Man of His Word': Cannes Review

Article excerpt

Wim Wenders presents an interesting, if glossy, portrait of Pope Francis

Pope Francis - A Man Of His Word

Dir: Wim Wenders. France. 2018. 96mins

Whether in fiction or documentary, it can be challenging to depict uncommon, uncomplicated goodness. That’s a hurdle Wim Wenders’ well-intentioned Pope Francis - A Man Of His Word never fully overcomes, presenting us with a pontiff whose modesty belies a radical, inspiring message of empathy and social change that has sought to remake the world and the Catholic Church. More a gloss than an insightful dissection, this documentary frustrates by sticking to the man’s surface, reducing his words to commendable sound-bites rather than deeply exploring them.

There’s ample material for a fascinating portrait, but Wenders is simply too reverential

Premiering at Cannes before opening in the US on May 18, this Focus Features release will appeal to Catholics, but Francis’ progressive leanings should cater to secular liberals as well. And the film’s optimistic tone might be a balm for viewers troubled by recent political turmoil across Europe and the States.

Wenders has constructed Pope Francis around a series of straight-to-camera interviews, as the now-81-year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio speaks directly to the audience about his views on everything from poverty to the environment. Incorporating footage from the pope’s visits across the globe - as well as unconvincing fictionalized scenes of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, the early 13th century preacher who inspired this pontiff’s name - Pope Francis creates an intimate platform to hear the man’s message of peace, compassion and tolerance.

The filmmaker provides occasional melodramatic, impassioned narration that voices his concerns about our ever-coarsening society and his hope that Francis can help stem the tide of anger and cynicism. Wenders’ subject is an effortlessly engaging presence - kindly, thoughtful, even funny - but Pope Francis doesn’t show much interest in the forces that shaped such a remarkable individual. …

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