For our Editor the release of The Two Popes brings back memories of a bitter breakup with an old girlfriend and, confiding in his best mate, he revealed that he had said something daft about the Pope.
‘Well that’s not very bright’, replied his mate, ’You know you’re girlfriend’s a Catholic’
‘I know she is. I didn’t realise he was as well!’ wailed out Editor (‘You’re fired!’- Ed).
Here, The Two Popes picks up after the death of Pope John Paul and the Cardinals jostling for position as next wimple wearer with two clear frontrunners: The liberal man of the people Francis (Jonathan Pryce) and the conservative Benedict (Anthony Hopkins). It’s Benedict and his vigorous campaigning for the role that gets him the top job much to the dismay of several but especially to some Catholics outraged when his past is revealed as having Nazi affiliations. It something that he is never allowed to forget but Francis himself is not without his skeletons. Very much a man keen to work with the poorest he is haunted by the military coup of Argentina when priests were very much out of favour and a retreat for the poor run by the Catholic church and overseen by Francis ends abruptly and brutally for several of the priests that he had warned to leave. It is a tragedy for which he blames himself .
Francis is keen to retire but his popularity and the respect for the work he does means that Benedict will not accept his resignation but it is Benedict under fire for his own past and with his own doubt about the position he so craved who also wants to resign. Be careful what you wish for is an edict which must be on the minds of others like Gordon Brown and Teresa May who were both keen for the top job but both ending in catastrophe. For Brown it would be huge economic debt and for May a legacy of utter failure with her ability to negotiate Brexit deal on a par with her being the only person to buy a sofa from DFS when they didn’t have a sale on. And all the time wearing jewelry so hideous it made her look like a prize on a hoop-la stall run by the Wu Tang Clan. So it’s Benedict who summons Francis to Rome where for the first time since 1294 Benedict tells him he will retire and wants Francis to take over.
The Two Popes, if not entirely accurate, is a decent account of what may have gone on behind closed doors and the film does brush over perhaps more important issues during their tenure notably the paedophile scandal that was covered so well in the Oscar winning Spotlight. Pryce and Hopkins together are a class act (there’s a great end scene with them watching the World Cup final between their respective home country teams) but whilst Pryce does a great accent, here as the Argentinian Pope-to-be, Hopkins carries on in his own voice without even a cursory ‘Mamma Mia’ thrown in. With flashbacks and newsreel footage The Two Popes is, whilst nevertheless engrossing, is perhaps a little overlong.
Here’s The Two Popes trailer……..