Eight years have passed since Academy Award-nominated Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles directed a film. He’s certainly kept busy in that time – namely, as the director behind the Rio Olympics opening ceremony, as well as the helmer of several television shows and mini-series. But now Meirelles will make his return to the movies with The Two Popes, a contemplative tale that is already garnering rave reviews.
Inspired by true events, The Two Popes tells the story of Pope Benedict XVI (played by Anthony Hopkins) and the future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce). Tradition and progress are at war almost immediately, and it can be seen in interactions as simple as a discussion about the Beatles. Though Benedict knows of the band and even asks Francis about them, he doesn’t know any of their songs. Francis, who Benedict describes as one of his “harshest critics,” is presented as affable (he rides a scooter through the streets and watches local soccer matches), but he’s also contending with a world that he says they’re “no longer a part of.” The struggle of finding faith in a changing landscape looms heavily.
Meirelles’s painterly eye is on full display, with sweeping overhead shots of lush gardens and expansive scenes inside churches. There’s a sense of isolated opulence as Benedict and Francis sit in a room talking about finding “God’s voice.” As rapid photos of paintings (and Pryce standing in awe of artwork) are shown, Hopkins declares that a new pope acts as a “correction” to the previous one.
The film recently premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where many critics declared the director is bound for another Best Director nomination. The trailer has a unique feeling, blending the foreboding world of Christianity with beauty through its musical cues. This could definitely be a movie that attracts audiences of all stripes. And with the actors’s performance, it looks like Netflix might have another awards darling.
The Two Popes premieres in select theaters on November 27 and Netflix on December 20.