We are told to never discuss religion or politics at the dinner table or during the holidays. It’s a surefire way to divisiveness, disagreements and putting a damper on festivities. I have been fortunate enough to practice numerous religions. Among the religions I practiced, Pentecostal, Buddhism and Catholicism are the ones that have concretely shaped my life. As a former Catholic, The Pope always seemed like an enigma to me. Who was this man? Why did he devote himself to a life of celibacy? Was he ever in love? Did he ever yearn for a family? Was his family disappointed that he decided to live his life for the church and its paritioners? What happens if he makes a mistake? You know, the kind that would deem him from being just another human being to merely human like the rest of us.
I’ve also wondered what goes on behind the scenes when a new Pope is selected. Is it unanimous? Are there reservations from him or those around him? Well, The Two Popes answers all of that and then some. Directed by Fernando Meirelles and gorgeously written by Anthony McCarten, these men have given Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) and Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) a humanity that is refreshingly shocking, beautifully heartfelt and heartbreaking all at once.
These men are polar opposites in how they came to the church, their ideology, how they choose to see the world and they wish the world to see them. We learn first hand how the church deals with retirement, scandal and those who may not necessarily believe in them…1.2 billion believers to be exact.
Pryce and Hopkins are giving a masterclass in how effective a performance can be when less is more. With a difficult task at hand of being on screen most of the film in simple complex dialogue, they never falter. They both possess an acerbic sense of humor that is cleverly sprinkled throughout to break up the drama of these complicated men. Men, who sacrificed their lives, their soul and in some instances, what they thought would make them happy in exchange for the church. Both of British descent, Hopkins and Pryce conquer the language skills of speaking multiple languages as if it were their native tongue. Their performances are to be revered, admired and noted as some of the most spectacular of 2019.
Most of all, we learn of the lives they led before getting the call to the church. Who knew the Pope had numerous residences? Watching and listening to their distinct differences on such issues as homosexuality, sexual misconduct by priests and confession to name a few is quite enlightening. Who knew that these men of the Lord could be so shady? I guess at the end of the day, they are just flesh and blood with egotistical idiocyncracy tendencies. One of my favorite moments was knowing the the Pope watching television and enjoys football. Who knew?
Meirelles most effectively infiltrates the use of flashbacks, voice-overs with the assistance from cinematographer Cesar Chalone to recreate Rome and Argentina in the most beautifully, scenic manner possible.
Streaming via Netflix on December 20th, The Two Popes is a welcomed addition to the holiday season and a lesson in forgiveness, being open-minded and realizing that Popes and Priests are simply mortal.