2019 Film Reviews – 71: The Two Popes [dir. Fernando Mereilles; 2019]

If theatre is better at exploring ideas than film is, perhaps that’s why The Two Popes feels as though it would have been slightly more comfortable at The National. Or maybe it’s because it consists of little more than conversations between Pope Benedict and the soon-to-be Pope Francis as they wrestle with their differing views on the role of the Catholic Church. But it would be churlish to condemn the movie for its staginess, precisely because the ideas it tackles are so profound and so relevant to the state in which we find ourselves as we approach the end of another decade. Thanks in part to Anthony Hopkins’ and Jonathan Pryce’s pretty much superb central performances and to Anthony McCarten’s confident screenplay, the movie offers honest, nuanced insights into the importance of change, the need for steadfastness and the many effects – both positive and negative – of compromise. More importantly, it does so without a single cynical moment. And if it indulges in some too-cuddly idol worship towards the end, perhaps that should just be taken as an indication that it is trying to extend a spirit of humane understanding to its main characters. A touching piece of work, well worth seeing in these troubling times.


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