Wim Wenders doesn’t present a balanced portrait of the radical Catholic leader, but his subject’s spirit still shines through
POPE FRANCIS: A MAN OF HIS WORD (Wim Wenders). 96 minutes. Opens Friday (May 18). See listing. Rating: NNN
Wim Wenders’s documentary about Pope Francis is shamelessly cuddly, obnoxiously titled and genuinely inspiring. What’s best in A Man Of His Word emerges from its subject’s ability to articulate and embody an ideology that embraces interfaith dialogue and transcends dogma.
The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is, famously, the first pope from the Americas. Wenders’s most significant contribution to our understanding of Bergoglio is to emphasize that he was also the first to take his papal name from Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and renouncer of wealth. Pope Francis insistently speaks on behalf of the poor, and this alone renders him an outlier among world leaders.
Wenders shows Francis kissing the feet of Philadelphia’s incarcerated and petitioning U.S. Congress to accept immigrants and refugees. Francis advocates solidarity with the LGBT community and gender equality and cites ecological preservation as the world’s most pressing concern.
If you know anything about the papacy’s status quo, you know Francis is a radical – but radicals deserve dissent, too, and there’s none to be found in this reverent portrait.
Nothing is said about reproductive rights or how Francis’s benevolent message might actually affect policy.
Still, see this film, argue with it, try to take it at its word.