Behind Vatican walls, the conservative Pope Benedict and the liberal future Pope Francis must find common ground to forge a new path for the Catholic Church.
Mostly taking place over a few days at the Pope’s summer residence of the Palace of Castel Gandolfo, ‘The Two Popes’ is a film about the pivotal moment in the history of the Catholic Church when Pope Benedict XVI decided to stand down from his position, becoming the first pope to resign in almost 600 years. It stars Anthony Hopkins as Benedict, and Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Bergoglio, who would later become Pope Francis, and the film mostly follows the two men as they converse and share their alternate visions for the future of the church. I was a little surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it, and I thought ‘The Two Popes’ was a really interesting, and entertaining movie.
After some scene setting we join Bergoglio as he makes the trip to Rome to personally hand in his resignation after the Pope had failed to respond to his letters. Bergoglio (a liberal in the Catholic Church sense) has became disillusioned with the direction the church is taking, which puts him at odds with Benedict who is more of a traditionalist. Unbeknownst to Bergoglio, Benedict is also planning his own resignation and this meeting acts as an opportunity for the two men to size each other up before deciding on how to move forward. Hopkins and Pryce are both at the top of the game and they draw absorbing drama out of two men, walking, talking and exchanging opinions on the church and its role in the modern world. It’s also on occasion quite funny, especially so when the two men start to warm to each other and develop a mutual respect that transcends their differing viewpoints. Director Fernando Meirelles (best known for ‘City of God’) doesn’t get everything right with the flashbacks proving less effective than intended, but when he wisely puts his trust in his leading men to do the heavy lifting it pays off in spades.
‘The Two Popes’ is an illuminating religious drama that manages to sensitively show the humanity of the two men at the centre of its story as they grapple with themselves and the church and god that they serve. It is enhanced by the captivating performances from Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, who deserve to be recognised at some of the upcoming awards ceremonies. A fine film to conclude 2019 on.
Directed By: Fernando Meirelles
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujin, Sidney Cole, Lisandro Fiks, Thomas D. Williams, Maria Ucedo and Emma Bonino