The Two Popes

The Two Popes ★★★½

"We need bridges, not walls." ~ Pope Francis

Adapted by writer Anthony McCarten from his own 2017 stage play "The Pope," and directed by Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles, this movie focuses on the future Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), and his relationship with the current aging Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins). No two Catholics could be more opposed in their views of what's best for the church. Bergoglio is an Argentine progressive man-of-the-people advocating for change, while Benedict is an ultra-conservative German theologian bent on maintaining tradition.

The crux of the drama here centers on Bergoglio's desire to retire and live quietly, and the reigning Pope's insistence that he remain in high office to become the next pontiff when Benedict steps down... a move unprecedented since the 12th century. We see the two great clergymen engaged in private debate on everything from the role of women in the church to gay marriage, celibacy, divorce, pedophilia, absolution and more. But we also view them as very human individuals who drink wine and eat pizza, with Bergoglio loving soccer and tango dancing, whilst Benedict is proficient as a pianist who cut his own album.

Credit goes to Meirelles and crew for making these iconic men come alive. Yes, there is a great deal of contrived speech and activity, but we perhaps see more deeply into the heart of modern Catholicism through these two quasi-fictional characters, and it is intriguing to watch. The film earned a triple trifecta of nominations at the Oscars, Golden Globes and BAFTAs for Best Adapted Screenplay (McCarten), Best Supporting Actor (Hopkins) and Best Leading Actor (Pryce). It is must-see cinema for fans of Hopkins or anyone like me who finds religious themes endlessly fascinating. Check it out on Netflix. You will be glad you did.

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