Austin Film Festival 2019 Review: THE TWO POPES

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Written by Andrew McCarten (based on his play, The Pope), and directed by Fernando Meirelles, this occasionally comedic drama is currently playing in select theaters and will be available for viewing on Netflix, Friday, December 20, 2019. I had the pleasure of enjoying this profound examination of differing ideologies and two headstrong gentlemen who firmly hold on to them. It is a challenge of wills, wits, and patience, but despite their differences, the clashing of the two popes eventually culminates in a mutual respect and friendship.

In 2005, following the death of Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Ratzinger chose the name of Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict became a controversial figure as he maintained a very strict and not very progressive approach to the church. Anthony Hopkins stars as Pope Benedict XVI and portrays the pontiff as stubborn, curt, and occasionally abrasive.

In the film, Benedict invites the charismatic and passionate Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) to his Vatican home in what seems to be a casual attempt at getting better acquainted. As the two begin to socialize, it becomes apparent that couldn’t be any more different. The two clergymen challenge each other and debate about what the Catholic Church should do about its troubles. In 2013, after Pope Benedict resigns, Bergoglio would succeed him as Pope Francis.

With superb performances by both Hopkins and Pryce, and with great writing and solid direction by Pryce, The Two Popes is a fascinating and compelling piece which shows the power of love and brotherhood despite vast differences in thinking and beliefs. The movie is not all philosophy and ideology, the filmmakers and actors succeed in developing these two characters in some truly dynamic ways. Just the right amount of appropriate humor also adds some color to these amazing characters. It is a movie I must highly recommend whether viewed at home or in a theater.

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