27 November 2019, The Tablet

Papal buddies


Papal buddies

Jonathan Pryce, left, and Anthony Hopkins as Popes Francis and Benedict
Photo: Netflix


The Two Popes
Director: Fernando Meirelles

Holy smoke. There was I half-dreading this dramatisation of the most famous handover in papal history – a pious bore, surely, or a reputational whitewash – and along comes The Two Popes to deliver a knock-out: not just an expertly played two-hander but a touching affirmation of faith in a secular age. The Great Catholic Film? God knows we’ve been waiting long enough for it. 

It is built around a series of imagined duologues, beginning in 2012 when two eminences of the Church were each in spiritual despond. Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins), invites Cardinal Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) to his summer palace outside Rome for a meeting. The latter has brought his retirement papers to be signed, but it transpires that the Holy Father has other plans for him. At first it looks an awkward match, the one a conservative hardliner, “God’s Ratzweiler”, the other a forward-thinking Jesuit. Their characters too are fundamentally opposed – the German-born Pope a cautious, gimlet-eyed stiff with no sense of humour, the Argentine cardinal a gentle, jovial spirit who loves football and tango. Will this odd couple learn to dance?

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