Saint and sin­ner

Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - Feature Story -

Con­fes­sion time: Jude Law and Diane Keaton in The Young Pope.

Jude Law is a very un­con­ven­tional pon­tiff caus­ing may­hem in the Vat­i­can in stun­ning new drama The Young Pope, writes Claire Hen­der­son.

Bri­tish movie star Jude Law (The Hol­i­day and Cold Moun­tain) is grac­ing the small screen as a hand­some, trou­bled pon­tiff in The Young Pope, a stun­ning cin­e­matic se­ries com­ing to SBS about the Vat­i­can. The lav­ish 10-episode se­ries, which boasts beau­ti­ful cin­e­matog­ra­phy, fol­lows the fic­tional story of or­phan Lenny Be­lardo (Law), who be­comes the newly elected Pius XIII – the youngest and first Amer­i­can Pope in his­tory. As­sumed to be pro­gres­sive and lib­eral-minded, Lenny con­founds ex­pec­ta­tions when he re­veals him­self to be a con­ser­va­tive anti-es­tab­lish­ment sub­or­di­na­tor who seems to take great plea­sure in openly de­spis­ing the car­di­nals, hates gays, tourists and free­dom, and even claims not to be­lieve in God. He chal­lenges the Vat­i­can with his strong ideas and it’s one rule for him and an­other for ev­ery­one else – first seen when he re­verses a Vat­i­can smok­ing ban in­tro­duced by his pre­de­ces­sor John Paul II – but only for him­self. In fact, Pope Pius XIII is a mys­te­ri­ous and con­tra­dic­tory fig­ure all round – de­spite his men­ac­ing ways, he can also be charm­ing, mod­ern and res­o­lute. As Lenny says when asked who he is: “I am a con­tra­dic­tion. I’m God: one in three and three in one. Like Mary, vir­gin and mother. Like man, good and evil.” took in or­phaned Lenny and brought him up in a con­vent. Child­hood is a strong theme that runs through the se­ries – right from the open­ing scene, which shows Lenny crawl out from un­der a huge pile of un­mov­ing ba­bies – as the iden­tity of the man for­mally known as Pope Pius XIII un­rav­els. “It all comes back to this in the end, doesn’t it? To the mother”. Lenny’s search for God

“Child­hood is a strong theme that runs through the se­ries – right from the open­ing scene, which shows Lenny crawl out from un­der a huge pile of un­mov­ing ba­bies – as the iden­tity of the man for­mally known as Pope Pius XIII un­rav­els.”

Cre­ated and di­rected by Ital­ian Academy Award win­ner Paolo Sor­rentino (The Great Beauty), this high qual­ity piece of work fea­tures an all-star cast, in­clud­ing Diane Keaton, who plays Sis­ter Mary, the nun who even­tu­ally co­in­cides with his search for his par­ents – which is in dan­ger of tor­ment­ing his en­tire re­la­tion­ship with the faith. Law said of his char­ac­ter in a re­cent in­ter­view: “It isn’t try­ing to shock. It would be more shock­ing if Lenny was hav­ing rent boys up to the Vat­i­can and smok­ing pot. But he’s not. He’s a con­ser­va­tive. In fact, he’s a prude. He’s ho­mo­pho­bic, he’s anti-di­vorce, he’s anti-abor­tion and all those things are in the scrip­tures. He’s stand­ing up for things we know are ques­tion­able within the rules.” One of Sor­rentino’s strengths is his metic­u­lous ad­di­tion of quirky lit­tle de­tails, such as Pope Pius XIII be­ing ad­dicted to Cherry Coke Zero. The show even stars a kan­ga­roo, with the Pope given one as a gift from Aus­tralia when he is elected. Law is in fine form in the white robes – this is un­doubt­edly one of the best roles he has played in years. So just who is Pope Pius XIII – a ruth­less tyrant, a nar­cis­sist or just a lost boy? This sleek, mes­meris­ing show will keep you guess­ing. Ex­pect the un­ex­pected. The Young Pope, SBS, Wed­nes­day, 10.30pm and SBS On De­mand from to­day.

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