The Two Popes Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Pros: Amazing performances by Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins; great dialogues; peculiar humor; little-known facts from the biography of Jorge Mario Bergoglio; costumes and sets Cons: The film somewhat whitewashes the Catholic Church; problem with subtitles on Netflix The Two Popes / “Two Popes”

Drama genre
Directed by Fernando Meirelles
Starring Jonathan Pryce (Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis), Anthony Hopkins (Pope Benedict XVI), Juan Minujin (Jorge Mario Bergoglio in his youth), etc.
Netflix Studios
Year of release 2019
IMDb website

The Two Popes is the story of several short meetings between Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis. Two middle-aged people who disagree with each other on almost everything discuss issues of faith, the transformation of the church and remember their own lives. And quite suddenly they find each other very interesting interlocutors. Pope Benedict XVI, who is experiencing a crisis of faith, finally realizes what he must do to bring maximum benefit to the Church, and Cardinal Bergoglio, who is experiencing a crisis of trust in the Church itself, understands that this is another test sent to him by higher powers, and that he will be forced to bear the cross of responsibility for the Catholic Church after Benedict XVI.

The Two Popes is by no means a documentary. Yes, all the facts presented in it, the doubts of the young Jorge Bergoglio about the path he had chosen, the subsequent collaboration with the Argentine junta, which he has not yet been forgiven for, the exile, the relationship with the priests “devoted” to him – all this really took place. So did the scandals that marred the last years of Benedict XVI’s papacy. But the private conversations between Benedict XVI and Cardinal Bergoglio are all the playwright’s invention. No, undoubtedly, the cardinal and the pope met and communicated with each other, but only the participants in the conversations themselves know what happened behind the doors of the papal residence.


The Two Popes is based on the play The Pope by New Zealand writer, playwright and screenwriter Anthony McCarten. McCarten himself was involved in adapting the script, especially since he has plenty of experience in this matter: he wrote the scripts (and often the basis for them) for such films as The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour and Bohemian Rhapsody. Well, we hope that at least this time McCarten will receive the recognition he deserves for his work.


Almost the entirety of The Two Popes is built on dialogue and interaction between two great actors – Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins. And while Jonathan Pryce doesn’t have any major film awards to his name, his work in the iconic Brazil alone puts him in the big leagues. Well, Sir Anthony Hopkins needs no further introduction; the list of his awards would be too long for this article. The masters played in The Two Popes simply brilliantly. It is incredibly interesting to follow the change in the relationship of their characters to each other, from almost undisguised hostility and distrust to frankness and friendship. As well as watching the dialogues, sometimes reminiscent of a verbal game of ping-pong and filled with peculiar, but very sweet humor.


However, the amazing work of the film crew and magnificent actors has its downside: you, unnoticed by yourself, become imbued with sympathy not only for the characters, but also for the very institution of the Catholic Church, and practically forget about those shortcomings and crimes for which Cardinal Bergoglio expresses his opinion to Benedict XVI dissatisfaction at the very beginning of the film. We are talking primarily about pedophile priests. In some ways, The Two Popes whitewashes the same Benedict XVI, who hid the crimes of the clergy, but then repented. Yes, this is exactly how the practice of repentance works, but crimes still remain crimes, even if the person who covered them up for many years is now painfully ashamed.

However, this is almost the only negative of The Two Popes. Along with the script, dialogues and excellent acting, we should also add stunning costumes, sets and locations to the list of pluses. Honestly, I just can’t imagine how the filmmakers managed to film in the Sistine Chapel, but it looks like it’s really not CGI, but a real chapel in the heart of the Vatican. I would add that the film takes on additional texture if you have been to Rome and the Vatican, but I’m afraid that after the discussion in the comments to the film 6 Underground, I will be misunderstood.


If you like intimate films built on dialogue, pay attention to The Two Popes. The work of Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins, Anthony McCarten and Fernando Meirelles is worth it.

PS The film has some problem with subtitles. The fact is that in this picture they speak English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Latin. The Russian track is only available for English text; in order to see the translation from other languages, you need to turn on permanent subtitles, which is somewhat inconvenient.


A magnificent chamber film that rests on the interaction of two brilliant actors

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