Suitable entertainment for a Knights of Columbus fundraiser, Nanni Moretti's We Have a Pope finds the Most Holy Father, wracked with self-doubt about his new position, on a walkabout in Rome. Actor-writer-director Moretti's latest starts with broad physical comedy (a cardinal face-plants in the dark), introduces a potentially provocative idea — Has the pope lost his faith? If so, why? — then stupefyingly pulls its punches until the closing minutes, when the film acknowledges, in powerful but nonspecific terms, the staggering crises facing the Catholic Church.
Moretti plays, in his typically overweening fashion, renowned psychoanalyst Bruzzi, summoned to aid the newly elected pontiff, Melville (Michel Piccoli), who screams, “I can't do this!” right before he is to approach the balcony of the Vatican to greet his flock. Trying to determine the cause of his analysand's panic attack, the atheist shrink makes little progress in his first and only session with Melville, played for laughs, and it is decided that the pope should leave the Holy City to seek treatment with Bruzzi's ex-wife (Margherita Buy), also a psychoanalyst — who, like everyone else outside the conclave, is unaware that Melville is the newly elected pontiff.
In Rome, Melville soon flees his handlers. Talking to himself on a city bus during his three-day absence from the Vatican, he strings together some thoughts about the church: “It's been hard to admit our faults.” This mildest of barbs is cushioned further by the reactions of the pope's fellow travelers, who look kindly at the sweet, sympathetic, frail old man. —Melissa Anderson (Landmark)