The Two Popes

The Two Popes 2

By Joanna Langfield

Like a few other notable films out there, this, too, focuses on men’s relationships with one another. This time though, their religion is, well, religion.

Drawn from the wary friendship that took its time developing between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, many will remember the almost Catholic Church shattering revelations and transitions that anchor this film. Benedict, a starchy German conservative leader, was elected to the Papacy just as revelations of internal chaos and widespread abuse were breaking. Overwhelmed and unhappy, he chose to retire, something virtually unheard of in and out of Rome. As we see it here, Benedict was on the verge of announcing his decision just as the frustrated Francis felt called to the Vatican, to ask for permission and step down from his position in the Jesuit head of the Argentine Church. Well, as they say, timing is everything.

While writer Anthony McCarten centers most of the story around the personal relationship between the two men (set against some jaw dropping Papal real estate), a good chunk of it also details much of Francis’ history, his road to the priesthood, and eventual, political issues. Those not familiar with his backstory will find it not just informational, but illuminating, in how it relates to the current Pope’s approach to the Papacy of the 21st Century. But I also loved the theological back and forth between the two men, both representing very different interpretations of the Bible and Jesus’ teachings.

And then there are the performances. Anthony Hopkins makes for a crusty Benedict, a man ill fit for the position in which he finds himself. But it’s a glorious Jonathan Pryce who steals the show, giving Pope Francis the warmth, wisdom and compassion so needed by so many.

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