From a quick look at the plot – which revolves around a newly elected Pope that cannot bring himself to greet the faithful, leaving his advisors to seek help from a renowned psychoanalyst – you would be excused to think that this is nothing more than the Italian version of The King’s Speech. However, both films tackle a similar subject from two different angles.
Melville (Michel Piccoli), the central character, has the more daunting task of facing his fear of his new role and responsibilities on his own. After a brief awkward session with the psychoanalyst, Melville escapes the Vatican and starts wandering around the city. As expected, a legendary actor Piccoli perfectly captures the child-like enthusiasm with which Melville embraces the simple joys of life that he has been deprived from for a long time, adding a warm and affecting touch to these scenes and helping us feel emotionally connected to a character who happens to be the Pope.
Unfortunately, whenever the story moves away from Melville’s stroll to follow the life in the Vatican, the film loses some of its charm. By showing us how the initially disorientated psychoanalyst ends up appearing almost at ease, Moretti makes a nice point about how confinement does not necessarily equal unhappiness but these mostly comic scenes feel somewhat tame (with the exception of the impromptu volleyball game which is as fun as it sounds).
It is difficult though to be overly critical of a film that never succumbs to the forced sentimentality often associated with this type of stories. We Have a Pope’s strongest merit is that it manages to warm our hearts not by feeding us with the idealistic notion that “if you believe in yourself you can accomplish anything” but by helping us realise the sheer happiness that lies in accepting that not everyone needs to become a leader. (Words: Apostolos Kostoulas)
In cinemas now.