“The Two Popes” Is Shockingly Entertaining, As Well As Moving

Of all the films I’ve seen in 2019, none has emerged as quite the pleasant surprise that The Two Popes has. On the surface, nothing about this project interested me. I’m not religious, I don’t especially see religious figures as compelling characters, and so one. Yet, here we are with this movie representing one of the most enjoyable character studies of the year. With a pair of excellent performances, sumptuous writing, and an open hearted way of tackling faith, it turns out to be a huge success. Netflix has a real embarrassment of riches this year, and it’s to their credit that this one isn’t being lost in the shuffle.
The film is a character study, mixing some light comedy with some potent dramatic elements. The focus is on a crisis in the Catholic Church and two dramatic transitions of power. First, there’s the election of Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins), continuing the faith’s conservative orthodoxy. Years later, in 2012, a frustrated Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) heads to the Vatican in order request permission to retire from Benedict. The latter sees it as a protest, which is partly true, as the former takes issue with the direction of the Church. Thus begins a debate between the old school and the new school. However, with doubt and scandal swirling about, Benedict sees in Bergoglio an eventual successor. During a long conversation, he reveals secrets and makes a request that will change Catholicism forever. As both talk about their personal guilt, failings, and desire for forgiveness, the initial debate between whether progress is necessary evolves into the start of an unlikely friendship, one that would continue as Bergoglio eventually becomes Pope Francis. Fernando Meirelles directs a script by Anthony McCarten. Juan Minujín rounds out the cast, with the score by Bryce Dessner, as well as César Charlone handling cinematography.
It may come as a shock, but, as mentioned above, this is largely one of the funnier movies of the year. McCarten peppers in a ton of laughs here, especially during some of the initial interactions between Hopkins’ current Pope and Pryce’s future Pope. Things get much more serious in the middle and towards the end, before doubling back to wrap up on some very humorous moments. That’s a big part of what elevates the film from good to great. The heart, humor, and universality of the story takes what otherwise could have been an […]

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