‘In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis’ Review: Serene Demeanor, Bracing Message

There’s a sense of quietude one may slip into while viewing this documentary made by Gianfranco Rosi. Perhaps it has to do with the serene demeanor of its subject, Pope Francis, the leader and international voice of the Roman Catholic Church. In most documentaries depicting what musicians and entertainers call road work, the person putting in the hours can get irritable. In his first nine years as Pope (he was elected in 2013), Francis made 37 trips from the Vatican, and visited almost 60 countries. “In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis,” assembled from footage shot over those years, never betrays a jet-lagged pontiff.

Rosi made his name with the urgent 2016 documentary “Fire at Sea,” about Italy’s — and Europe’s — migrant crisis. Some dire imagery and sound reminiscent of that picture turns up here: radio antennas spinning as audio of S.O.S. messages play on the soundtrack, shots of overturned passenger boats. After one mass drowning, Pope Francis spoke on the island of Lampedusa, where he bemoaned “the globalization of indifference.” The speech, which Rosi shot, is moving, its message bracing even as the Pope avoids a strident tone.

But as the movie goes on, without narration or any talking-head interviews, a pattern emerges. The Pope suits up, shows up, says the right thing, and the world just keeps getting worse. There is one instance where he doesn’t say the right thing: Speaking offhand to his followers in Chile, he appears dismissive of abuse charges against a bishop there, one who subsequently resigned. The tact with which Francis walks back his words is impressive. So, too, is the way he manages to appear well-informed on the variety of injustices he speaks against as he tries to build bridges in places like the United Arab Emirates. But beyond that, a repetitious feel begins to take over. For some viewers, quietude may yield to boredom.

In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on most major platforms.

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