"The power of Christ compels you! | THE TWO POPES – Review"
Conservative Pope Benedict and liberal future Pope Francis try finding common ground towards a new path for the Catholic Church, in Netflix original THE TWO POPES!
Considering I was baptized and confirmed “Catholic,” the irony is there’s zero sentimental value when it comes to all things papal. I, however, understand and respect it means a lot to others. Therefore, I think this film will serve a purpose, but it won’t go without riding a seesaw of reactions. I vividly remember all sorts of howling among people I know when Papal swap took place. How much accuracy the narrative has towards Francis and Benedict will be debated, but what THE TWO POPES does is it allows an artistic glance at complexities when running one of the most powerful (and controversial) religious organizations on the planet.
The film starts off with text reading “based on true events,” but for an organization so secretive, I don’t know. What’s for the public is for the public. What’s to be kept hidden… we’ll never know. However, writer Anthony McCarten does a nice job at presenting gritty, engaging dialog. The film comes off a bit one-sided as its scope leads more towards the rise of Francis, while exposing the lighter and darker side of his past. Which was quite a charm and works wonders in terms of character development. My gripe though is it’s completely different on the opposite end. Very little is set upon Benedict, causing a void for me. Benedict’s background isn’t top secret. Definitely scandalous. We all know his story (or at least what’s been leaked in dribs-n-drabs). It’s touched upon very delicately, along with a Church losing followers under his watch, which exposes his reluctance to move forward as Pope, and realizing the Church needed a new vision. The narrative and passing-of-the-torch simmers nicely, but it doesn’t grant him the redemption in the way we see it with Francis.
On all ends, in its own way, THE TWO POPES pulls no punches in terms of scandals, regrets, acceptance, misinterpretations, growth, justice, and most of all… progressive change! Hopkins and Pryce are both powerful actors whose objectives for their roles were interesting. While most of their performance remained stoic, it worked. Clearly their roles had hardened backgrounds and the strength they had to work their way through it remained, and helped them all through their climb within the Church. So… I guess what I’m saying is stoic worked. Many times I forgot I was watching two actors, and felt I was a fly-on-the-wall overhearing two pontiffs on the edge of their sanity fighting for their vision of the greater good. The undeniable respect and solid friendship they have for each other is the heartbeat of the story. Two beings on opposite ends who find common ground is nearly non-existent nowadays. If anything, THE TWO POPES is a piece that sheds the guding light of Jesus Christ on respect towards each other’s differences and working through them.
It may come off slow at times, but it’s worth taking it in. It’s not a film for everyone, but it’s a film everyone should give a chance. While there are documentaries on both men and the Church, this “glammed up” version may help grab attention. Fernando Meirelies may have presented Netflix with a sleeper hit. The film is as dramatic as it is light-hearted, which allows it solid moments of enjoyment, intrigue and educational value. Now… blurred lines will lie for those who have fallen victim to the Church, as well as the Church itself (who I’m sure is fully aware Hollywood has tapped into them once again). THE TWO POPES will spark admiration, conversations, deep discussions, and maybe even arguments… but that’s part of the fun! It’s designed to press emotional buttons.