Picks and Pans Review: John Paul II: the Millennial Pope
No papal portrait could hope to win the blessing of every viewer. Some will be disappointed that this Frontline special doesn't canonize John Paul II; others will think it gives him too much credit. The 2½-hour documentary achieves an admirable balance, faulting the Pope in a number of areas but keeping an open mind on the question of whether his rigidity is founded on the rock of eternal truth.
Producer Helen Whitney's film is at its best in showing how the Pope's actions and attitudes have been shaped by the history he lived through as Karol Wojtyla, Polish citizen and priest. His personal knowledge of the Holocaust spurred him to seek reconciliation between Catholics and Jews; his experience with Communist rule led him to throw his weight behind the Solidarity movement. But the program points out that this man who learned so much from his past often seems appalled by the present and dead-set against the future.
Closing with an exploration of the mystery of faith, the film becomes not just a life story but a stimulant for religious dialogue.
Bottom Line: Biography with cardinal virtues