The actor got a lot of attention several days ago, for his interview with Bishop Barron about his conversion to Catholicism while working on a film about Padre Pio.
The movie had its debut the other day in Venice. And reviews are trickling in:
“It’s as if [director Abel] Ferrara were making two movies at once: one a more intimate and abstract tale of a man who finds God and deals with the fallout — something that seems personal to the director and his star, both of whom have cleaned themselves up after problems with substance abuse. And the other a misdirected attempt to contextualize Pio’s struggle amid the greater struggles that ripped across Italy and lead to Mussolini’s ascension. Neither story is handled well enough, the political stuff much worse, and the result is a film that strays too far from Ferrara’s flock to seem believable. For a more potent vision of Christianity, try the director’s underrated Mary, starring Juliette Binoche as Mary Magdalene. And for an unforgettable look at a devout man grappling with his own sins, there’s always the great Bad Lieutenant. Perhaps the one redeeming quality of Padre Pio is that, like the latter’s fallen hero, Pio is ultimately incapable of holding back the evil forces that surround him. Pray all you want — you’ll never beat the devil.” — The Hollywood Reporter
“Abel Ferrara’s new film shows that, like Paul Schrader, he has moved away from the world, the flesh and the devil to a restless contemplation of that spiritual struggle that was there all along. This is a strange, rather baffling film – stark and austere, a stylized, theatrical bad dream in candlelight about the personal torment of Padre Pio and his private spiritual agony as a young priest in the few years that immediately followed the first world war. The actual Pio, who died in 1968 and was canonised in 2002, became a controversial figure for his apparent stigmata, but the film shows none of this. He is played with a highly combustible mix of sadness, rage and anguish by a heavily bearded Shia LaBeouf, but in terms of screen time Pio/LaBeouf is not in the film that much.” — The Guardian
“Padre Pio himself may as well be in an entirely different film, since he spends most of his scenes in the Capuchin monastery where he has been sent to serve. He has his demons, of course — and LaBeouf certainly brings a sense of lived experience — but the sinner’s life that has led him there is left vague. Instead, he is shown to have the religious fervor of the newly converted, even seeming to manifest stigmata while real or imagined conversations with Satan haunt his fever dreams….One might call it a comment on Donald Trump’s America, being a study of a community divided by ideology and an election that the losing side declare is rigged. That, however, would be too prosaic for Ferrara, and this is where LaBeouf comes in — his friar-as-mafioso performance (“Shut the f*ck up — say Christ is Lord!” he instructs a heretic) gives Padre Pio the frisson it needs and may even see the actor replace Willem Dafoe as the intellectually fearless director’s go-to guy for all-or-nothing commitment.” — Deadline
“The film is grounded in the reality of Italian life shortly after World War I, as socialist ideas gained currency amid calls for a transformation of society and the populace imagined a better way of life following their army’s traumatic return from the battlefield. The town of San Giovanni Rotondo, located in the country’s southeast, is conceived by Ferrara and first-billed co-screenwriter Maurizio Braucci (who appositely worked on Martin Eden) as a microcosm of this societal shift, where the ruling class harass their charges and dispute the results of a key national election in an apt parallel to Trumpian America. It’s perplexing, but rewardingly so, comprehending what on earth Pio really has to do with this. I share other early viewers’ bemusement with this film for sidelining the titular mystic’s character arc, and the arbitrariness of how his intriguing close-up moments interact with the main narrative. But this is a purposeful obliqueness because Pio can creditably represent Italy’s Catholic nature as the country undertook secular international conflicts, reminding it of its guilt towards and penance owed to the ‘Lord,’ and the guarantee of redemption. — The Film Stage
I haven’t seen any reviews from the Catholic press, but stay tuned. I’m sure they’re coming. Meanwhile, check out the trailer for the film below.