Friday, December 9, 2016



Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) is American, he is in his early 50s and he has just been, with much surprise, elected Pope Pius the 13th, which makes for two records: youngest pope in a centuries and the first American one. In the Vatican there is much anticipation for what this new mysterious Pope is going to do and when his first decision is to not ever appear in public or be photographed in anyway, the Church starts to realize it will have to deal with a Pope that does not bend to anyone.

Many are the reasons to be excited for this series that is a self contained 10 episode story that will debut in America in January on HBO. Firstly and possibly most importantly, it's Italian mastermind filmmaker Sorrentino at the helm. Some might be unfamiliar with the director's name, but he is nothing short of one of the best directors in the world right now, having made what is possibly the best film of the last few years in The Great Beauty. Given the fact that he writes and directs every episode you can understand the ambitiousness of the concept. Add to that a stellar cast and a madly unique premise and you know there's something to be truly excited about.

The Young Pope is a towering achievement, a showcase of all of Sorrentino's mastery behind the camera, it is a piece of cinematic entertainment unlike anything we've ever seen before, going to places inside the church that have rarely been touched or portrayed not only by TV and Cinema but by humanity itself. It is also a testament to the magical work of DP Luca Bigazzi, who graces us with ten hours of flawless imagery and with unbelievable visual beauty and balance. This show first and foremost is, as all of Sorrentino's work, highly symbolical, surreal and dream like, even though we have not seen it done this way before, yet it is as always a highly effective storytelling tool that makes for the usual, sensual view that Sorrentino is known and loved for. The spectacle you are taken through is the excellence in visual storytelling and cinematic language of this day and age, a masterpiece of camera movement, moved as only Sorrentino knows how to, and lighting.

What is most surprising about this series is just how in depth it goes: there are no soft edges, there is no sugar coating and there is absolutely zero contextualization, you are thrown right into the heart of Vatican City, you rarely leave that place and you get to experience everything about it, the intrigue, the power, the corruption, the fanaticism, the hope, the faith, all of the positive and negative aspects are just thrown at you and you better get along without asking for much explanation because you'll be left behind. So whilst on on side it takes a couple of episodes to get in the groove of the series on the other hand the way in which it is not sparing you anything and throwing everything at you is hugely welcome challenge as a viewer, which takes you to places you didn't ever think you'd be taken to and makes the moral and thematic conversations the show raises much more interesting and fascinating than they would have been otherwise.

Even more appreciation has to be given to the cast. James Cromwell is moving and vulnerable in a way that we have not seen him portray before in his long career and it is yet another golden performance by one of the best character actors in history. Diane Keaton plays the nun that acted as a mother figure to Lenny, perfect casting in it of itself and she delivers a laid back performance that makes her character stick out even more. Silvio Orlando steals the show, he is definitely graced with an outstanding character, but he rises to the occasion and brings forth an onslaught of a performance. A quick mention also has to be given to Stefano Accorsi for playing a fantastic Italian prime minister. Still, no one comes even close to the mastery that Jude Law manages to put forth into his acting here. He is magnetic, you hold on to his every word, he defies the screen and comes out as a living, breathing character. this performance floored me.

On another note the music, as always with Sorrentino, is spot on both in soundtrack and original score and contributes into creating atmosphere's that are uniquely original and totally unrepeatable. Furthermore, the core premise of having a "Rouge" Pope brings forth riveting character dynamics, emotional confrontations and spawns really deep reflections on the role of the church, on faith, compassion, love, ghosts of the past and much, much more. Everything above definitely climaxed for me in episode six which was by far my favorite, including all of the above in a tight and thrilling ride. This show certainly will have you rummaging in your thoughts for a long time.

Where unfortunately lots of the steam that the show manages to accumulate through its fabulous mise-en-scène is lost is in quite some meandering aimlessly around the Vatican, especially in early episodes. There are definitely one or two episodes too much, or even better there are 10 great 45 minute episodes instead of the 55 format the show uses. Moreover, the over arching theme and story line in the film does not propose much of any satisfying answers to different story threads and mysteries that are put forward. It is a show that is about faith, but there isn't a big enough picture painted for the audience to grasp a moral out of it, it comes short in doing that by just a little bit. We do not manage to come full circle on Lenny Belardo and whilst on one side we got some incredibly moving pay offs and some deeply touching moments of awe, on the other we are left still questioning ourselves about what was the aim of multiple archs and story threads, that as riveting and beautiful to watch throughout, don't come to an end the way they should.

It has to be noted that this isn't an overall problem, just one that takes away from partial elements of this otherwise overwhelming show, a tour de force in the catholic church that brings forth a vision and a commentary that is as surprising and edgy as it is riveting to experience. 

The Young Pope will air on HBO starting January 15, 2017.

James' Score: 8/10

Make sure to check us out and like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for all of our reviews, news, trailers, and much, much more!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment