The story begins on Sept. 29, 1978, with the death of Pope [John Paul I] I, then flashes back to Karol Wojtyla as a youth in Wadowice, Poland. Throughout the three hours, the story moves from past to future. The sequence is easy to follow, though, in part because of a clever device by director Herbert Wise to introduce scenes from Wojtyla's early life in black and white.
Three cheers also for the makeup artists, because [Albert Finney] looks eerily like the Pope. And Finney has mastered the Pope's stoop and his hand gestures, too.
If there's a sin in the Pope's past, there's no evidence of it here. In giving us Wojtyla as a man without a flaw, director Wise also has given us a story without a moral dilemma and, therefore, without dramatic edge.