Two Popes, The (2019)

You’ll be surprised that two religious old men chatting about their struggles with faith and their pasts can be so engrossing in Fernando Meirelles’ breezy drama.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Fernando Meirelles
2019 | UK/Italy | Drama | 125 mins | 1.85:1 | English and various European languages
M18 (passed clean) for thematic content and some disturbing violent images.

Cast:  Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujín
Plot: Behind Vatican walls, the conservative Pope Benedict XVI and the liberal future Pope Francis must find common ground to forge a new path for the Catholic Church.
Awards: Nom. for 3 Oscars – Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay
Distributor: Netflix

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

Another decent Netflix title comes in the form of The Two Popes,which stars the two veteran actors Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis) and Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) respectively, earning two of the film’s three Oscar nominations. 

The third nomination is for Best Adapted Screenplay by Anthony McCarten, who previously wrote the scripts for The Theory of Everything (2014) and Darkest Hour (2017). 

You might be wondering why I stated these nominations so matter-of-factly—it’s because they are most indicative of the kind of film you will experience: conversational and acted out. 

You’ll be surprised that two religious old men chatting about their struggles with faith and their pasts can be so engrossing, and part of the reason is the chemistry between Pryce and Hopkins, both of whom play to each other’s strengths as composed and sensitive conversationalists. 

“When no one is to blame, everyone is to blame.”

Based on real-life figures, but dramatised by McCarten’s precise dialogue, The Two Popes also benefits from City of God director Fernando Meirelles’ breezy direction, which helps to counter some of the more traumatic parts that focus on political history, persecution and violence. 

Meirelles also strategically uses real-life footage to give his unconventional biopic a documentary-style immediacy, varying his aesthetics and allowing the film to work better organically considering its methodical staging. 

As someone who is not exactly religious (though I appreciate being spiritual-minded), I find The Two Popes interesting inasmuch as hearing people chat about their views about personal faith and mindsets cultivating.  Now I know what the fuss about being a Pope is.

Grade: B+




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