Review: 'Pope Francis: A Man of His Word' sticks to the talking points

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
“Pope Francis: A Man of His Word” focuses on the Pope’s thoughts.

If you’re looking for any unflattering truths about Pope Francis you won’t find them in “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.”

In fact, you won’t find many truths at all about the man. Who is he? What time does he go to bed? What does he wear underneath his robes? None of these subjects are addressed in Wim Wenders’ flattering documentary, which plays like an Electronic Press Kit for His Holiness.

Not that documentaries are required to dig up dirt, but “A Man of His Word” doesn’t dig up much of anything. Large sections of the film are dedicated to Pope Francis speaking directly to the camera, sharing his views on the state of the world, the speed of modern life, etc. He comes off as patient, deeply compassionate and wholly likable. But after a while, his words all start to run together, and the film plays like one long sermon.

Wenders, whose documentary work includes “Buena Vista Social Club” and the blues tribute “The Soul of a Man,” does log a lot of hours on the road with Pope Francis, and we see the Pope meeting with world leaders, dying hospital patients and everyone in between. His duties are unending, and he’s adored wherever he goes — the biggest rock star on the planet. How does that make him feel? Probably pretty great and extremely exhausted, but those simple questions are never addressed.

We don’t get to learn about or see much of Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he was Pope, and Wenders rounds out the film with recreations of footage of St. Francis, the spiritual predecessor to Francis, which feel out of place in the documentary.

How well can you really know a Pope, anyway? In “A Man of His Word,” the answer is elusive.

'Pope Francis: A Man of His Word'


Rated PG: for thematic material including images of suffering

Running time: 96 minutes

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