I recently had a discussion with someone I know about the way cinema handles the complexities of Catholicism. They were firmly of the belief that Hollywood hates religion, and the only films you will see from the current system are those bashing religion. Personally, I disagree, what with major directors like Martin Scorsese and Terrence Malick still managing to create three-hour love letters to their religion and faith. I touted Malick’s A Hidden Life as my chief piece of supporting evidence, but as it turns out, I didn’t need to: not when Netflix and director Fernando Meirelles are providing me the perfect example in the highly acclaimed The Two Popes.
In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) faces an insurmountable challenge as the head of the Catholic Church. The Vatican is losing followers by the year, and despite attempts to demonstrate their compassion and acceptance, the Pope’s more traditional approaches aren’t bringing in new parishioners. Desperate to save the Church, but unwilling to sacrifice the convictions and beliefs he holds dear, Benedict invites his most vocal critic, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) to meet with him one-on-one, for a series of conversations. Bergoglio is preparing to hand in his resignation, Benedict has a secret agenda in mind. And over the course of the following two hours, the two men discuss faith, beliefs, compromise, love for God, and eventually, if Bergoglio would be willing to succeed Benedict as the future Pope Francis.
When I first heard about this project, I was intrigued, but hesitant. On the one hand, Hopkins and Pryce are a killer double-hander, and the last three films written by the screenwriter won Best Actor at the Oscars. But therein lies the Catch-22: while Anthony McCarten’s last three films won Best Picture, I’ve also loathed his writing (two of those films, The Theory of Everything and Bohemian Rhapsody, have utterly garbage scripts, while Darkest Hour is an OK script elevated by directors and actors). But despite my skepticism, it’s hard not to be excited by this project. It’s a two-hour talker about philosophy, life, and religion – something that absolutely fascinates me. And it is far and away one of the hottest titles at Telluride right now – audiences love it, regardless of race, creed, or background (I’ve read glowing reviews from a devout Catholic, a devout Mormon, a devout Jewish woman, and a devout atheist). This may be the real deal, and this trailer proves it. We’ll know soon enough, as Netflix is prepared to give the film a full Oscar push. It will be released on November 27th in limited theatres, before premiering on their streaming service December 20th, just in time for Christmas. You can watch the full trailer below.