Navyo reviews Paolo Sorrentino’s new television drama series: “It’s a must see.”
Compelling is an understatement when watching Jude Law play the young Pope Pius XIII in Paolo Sorrentino’s HBO mini-series, The Young Pope. At times cruel, at times compassionate and at times heart-wrenchingly tender, he plays a pope that is not only human, but divinely so.
From the beginning, the show seems unbelievable. Even comical. Absurd. What were they thinking? But it draws you in, mainly due to it’s star, Jude Law. This cigarette smoking Italian-American pope from New York, previously known as Lenny, has such a big ego, there’s barely enough room for it in the Vatican, and Jude Law plays it to the hilt.
Hardly the role model for the Catholic church, he creates a stir, to put it mildly. He wants, as he puts it, “a revolution.” The politics and corruption in the Vatican spin a web around Pius, trying to defame him with scandal, but they are no match for his abilities. Watching him outmanoeuvre the church is worthy of the show itself.
But it’s his transformation that is the most compelling. He is not just the Pope. He is a saint. Seeing his prayer for conception in the garden of an infertile couple while they are having sex is a deeply profound moment. Especially so when she becomes pregnant.
As the series progresses, these acts of communion with the divine become more evident as his ego melts into tenderness and vulnerability. Underneath, he’s just a poor orphan abandoned by his hippie parents that has found his way to be the head of the Catholic church. This inner wounding doesn’t stop his ability to commune with the divine – it enhances it. Maybe it’s the reason behind it.
It’s this vulnerability that makes him real and relatable. His relationship with his mentor, Cardinal Spencer (James Cromwell), brings out the need for his lost father. It’s another piece of human frailty that shows us the real man underneath the armor of the ego.
Sister Mary (Diane Keaton) raised Lenny and is appointed his personal secretary in the Vatican. She even calls him Lenny, until he insists otherwise. Hearing him being called Holy Father in almost every scene makes for an absurdity that is pure Sorrentino.
The Young Pope bears the hallmark of Sorrentino’s previous films, The Great Beauty and Youth. It’s another feast for the eyes with stunning cinematography and locations and a multi-layered story that asks you to examine your ideas of God, belief and being human. With an excellent cast giving top-notch performances and its combination of comedy, politics and pathos, it’s a must see.
Navyo is a regular contributor to this magazine
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