Very imaginative and thought provoking the HBO series “The Young Pope” comes to DVD/Blu-ray and Digital HD. Not a true story by any means, the drama with a tad of witticism gives its own interpretation of what may take place at the Vatican if a young American took over the reins of Holy Pontiff. Nicely filmed, acted, produced and directed, it has some edge that makes it tantalizing.
The series opens with a tableau of a baby climbing out of a womb over many other children on its way out the birth canal. It’s an intro that sets up the impossible feat of a young American taking over the most holy chair in the world. It then breaks to the Papal dressing room of 47-year-old former Archbishop of New York Lenny Belardo (Jude Law) who has been chosen to be the Pope of the Catholic Church.
Awakening after a disturbing dream that includes a “Game of Thrones” type visual introduction of the main players, the now Pope Pius XIII faces his first day of leading the billion plus followers. He’s determined to impart a shake-up within his Cardinals and show that he has the ability to bring stability to the throne. Thus, Lenny starts to evaluate and admonish those who he feels will help or destroy his Papacy.
The episodes go on from there as we find Lenny dealing with his Papal assistants and problems in the Christian world including world peace, abortion, pedophilia, homosexuality and unity. Director and creator Paolo Sorrentino shows how the new Pope deals with conspiracies, his past and the accusations that surround him involving a number of main characters.
Being from an orphanage, Lenny brings Sister Mary (Diane Keaton) to the Vatican to be his personal assistant. Having raised him from a child at the home, she’s the most trusted. Cardinal Voiello (Silvio Orlando) is the resident head of state and in charge of controlling finance. He’s an advisor, but not in favor of Lenny’s rise to the Papacy or his decisions. A confidant Cardinal Spencer (James Cromwell), a former Archbishop of New York, tries to sway Lenny from his conservative views. The Vatican harbors a society of well-wishers and malevolent who try to suppress or encourage the Holy leader for their own agenda.
As the Pope, Jude Law creates a very good character, one who’s flamboyant, serious and yet vindictive. Law defines the film and his role in one of the bonus extras as being about faith and doubt. He describes his character as a Pope who is a rogue, “someone who is shaking up the system”. He says this work of director Paolo Sorrentino is “poetic, impressionistic and interpretive”. But, it’s Jude Law that brings the character of Pope Pius the XIII to the small screen and it bleeds realism and expression making one of Law’s best works.
Excellent cinematography, special effects and costuming add to the experience. From photographs and museums the costume designers were able to duplicate the robes, jewelry and all the clothing to bring realism to the film. The interiors, landscapes and exterior sets are amazing and St. Peters Square and the Sistine Chapel have been recreated with all the grandeur. Photography by Luca Bigazzi brings the viewer up close to all the drama and then opens the audience’s eyes to vast rooms, chambers, private areas, and more. All are remarkably replicated due to the non-filming on property laws of the Vatican.
“Inside the Episodes” Take a look at each episode with explanations and reasons for each act by creator and director Paolo Sorrentino. Each is an eye opener that helps us envision each act.
“An Invitation to the Set” shows Jude Law working in the role of the Pope and expounding on the excellent work of creator and director Paolo Sorrentino.
“The Making of The Young Pope” featuring Sorrentino, Jude Law and other actors and crew they describe the context of the dialogue, sets, direction and costumes featured in the series.
“The Young Pope” has been rated TV-M for mature adults. The series contains brief nudity, some harsh dialogue and a scene of sexuality.
FINAL ANALYSIS: An entertaining series that, although fictional, has realistic probabilities.
Specifications and additional video information:
Cast: Jude Law, Diane Keaton, Scott Shepherd, James Cromwell, Ludivine Sagnier, Silvio Orlando, Cécile De France, Javier Cámara, Toni Bertorelli
Created and Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino
TV Rating: TV-MA for mature audiences
Series Running Time: 600 min. (10 Episodes)
Video Release Date: June 6, 2017
Original Theatrical Release Date: HBO- October 21 through November 18, 2016
Language: English (changeable to Spanish)
Reviewed Format: DVD
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Widescreen, 1080p, Aspect Ration 1.78:1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Number of Discs: 3 Discs + Ultraviolet Digital HD
Distributed by: HBO
Released in: DVD, Blu-ray, Digital HD
The comments within this review are the critic’s expressed opinions.