Netflix & Chill #72: The Two Popes


Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2019
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce
Directed By: Fernando Meirelles
Rotten Tomatoes: Tomatometer 89%, Audience 89%
Pick: Mine

You don't really think about it, but technically we do have Two Popes at the moment. Granted, Benedict is officially a 'Pope Emeritus' but he's still alive and kicking-- so it's a historical moment that we haven't seen in centuries, back when there were Papal States and the whole papacy had a lot more political authority than it does now. But nevertheless: we've got two popes kicking around out there, and this movie serves as an interesting reminder of the weirdness of it all.

It opens in 2005 when Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) is called to the Vatican to elect a new Pope following the death of Pope John Paul II. He receives the second highest vote count behind Cardinal Ratzinger (Anthony Hopkins) who is elected to the Papacy and becomes Pope Benedict. Bergoglio resigns himself to going back to Argentina to a quiet and unassuming life as a Priest.

Seven years later and the Church isn't in the greatest place. The sexual abuse scandal is raging and the Vatican leaks scandal is breaking. Benedict is stalked by accusations he personally relocated a Priest who was later revealed to be a pedophile.

Bergoglio is ready to retire. He's submitted his resignation to his Archbishop but the Vatican has not responded, so he's ready to go to Rome and deliver his resignation letter in Person. But before he can leave, he gets a summons to the Vatican. He goes and meets Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo, the summer resident of the Pope. They debate the roles of God and the Church. Benedict probes Bergoglio about how he came to the Priesthood. Bergoglio tells the story of his early life and how he broke off  his engagement and joined the Jesuits, making friends with Father Jalics (Lisandro Fiks) and Father Yorio (German de Silva).

After dodging Bergoglio's repeated attempts to deliver his resignation, Benedict finally rejects it, saying that the world would think it's a vote of no confidence in his leadership and weaked the Church. The next day, they go back to the Vatican together and meet in the Room of Tears within the Sistine Chapel where Benedict reveals that he is going to resign. Bergoglio objects and argues for tradition and continuity, but Benedict reveals that his opinions on tradition have changed and he thinks change is essential. He intimates that Bergoglio ocould be his succesor, but Bergoglio rejects the idea, citing the widely held belief that he had collaborated with the military dictatorship in Argentina during the Dirty War. 

(As head of the Jesuits during The Dirty War, Bergoglio felt that protecting his Priests was more important than oppositing regime and made compromises to do so- his friends, Father Jalics and Father Yorio would not listen and were both arrested and tortured by the regime. After the regime fell, Bergoglio was removed as head of the Jesuits and exiled to serve as an ordinary Parish Priest to the poor and eventually reconciles with Father Jalics, but not Father Yorio.)

Benedict gives Bergoglio absolution and then Benedict makes his own confession and reveals he no longer hears the words of God and affirms his desire to abdicate. Bergoglio offers him absolution as well. They emerge from the room, surprising tourists and Benedict goes to greet the masses and take selfies with them. Bergoglio departs for Argentina.

A year later, Benedict resigns and Bergoglio becomes Pope Francis.

Overall: it's Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce. They're incredible actors, inhabit their respective roles to perfection and bounce off of one another with style, vigor and no small amount of chemistry. A perfect portreat of this odd moment of history we're living through. And a weird parallel for Jonathan Pryce, who played Juan Peron (President of Argentina) in Evita and scored an Academy Award nomination for this role as Pope Francis (first Pope from Argentina). I honestly thought he might have some kind of connection to the country, but no. Turns out he's just Welsh and awesome at what he does. My Grade: **** out of **** 

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