behind the vatican walls

Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce star in a playful but thoughtful tale about Benedict, Francis, and God.

From Fernando Meirelles, the Academy Award-nominated director of “City of God”, and three-time Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten, comes an intimate story of one of the most dramatic transitions of power in the last 2,000 years.


In September 2017, Netflix announced that they would produce the film.

The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in August last year. It began a limited theatrical release in the United States and the UK in November 2019. Netflix started to streaming it in December.

Frustrated with the direction of the church, Cardinal Bergoglio requests permission to retire in 2012 from Pope Benedict. Instead, facing scandal and self-doubt, the introspective Pope Benedict summons his harshest critic and the future successor to Rome to reveal a secret that would shake the foundations of the Catholic Church.

Behind Vatican walls, a struggle commences between both tradition and progress, guilt and forgiveness, as these two very different men confront elements from their pasts to find common ground and forge a future for a billion followers around the world.

Film locations; Spain, Rome, Argentina and Uruguay. Produced by Dan Lin, Jonathan Eirich, and Tracey Seaward. The soundtrack is made by Bryce Dessner. Inspired by true events.

The real joy of this movie, though, is not the beautiful settings, nor the elaborate clothes and jewels that cardinals and popes wear — when he is putting on the robes to assume the See of Rome, Francis refuses the jewels, the red shoes and similar appurtenances, remarking “the carnival is ended”.

ABBA’s Dancing Queen – not really screaming Benedict XVI so of course we understand that the whole thing will not end with just his story.

It is the performances, Jonathan Pryce as Francis, Anthony Hopkins as Benedict, talking, arguing, being human with each other. These performances look simple. That is the magic of great actors, directors, writers, cinematographers, to produce something that looks simple and very human by means so arcane that not even the professionals can be sure of getting it right.

Powerful movie, but very light at times, it flows perfectly up to the credit scenes. It is a very charming film with a big WOW. The performances by Pryce and Hopkins were exceptional – very humorous, and the subtleties of there characters made for fascinating chemistry. I highly recommended!

Image result for two popes anthony hopkins

The film is both humorous and – of course – a delight to the eye as it gratefully describes The Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo’s beautiful gardens, rooms and religiously decorated walls.

I don’t know how much is the real truth …. behind those men’s relationship, but to be honest I couldn’t care less … but I enjoyed the movie so much.

At the same time, everything is interspersed with pizza-eating, Beatles, dancing and football snacks. Both popes feel refreshingly human and that is exactly what they are – of flesh and blood just like we are.

Somebody has said that this is a movie we need right now. I’m not a “believer” but I needed this … because as the world are now full of threats, racism and tensions – it made me feel so good.

“Being the Pope is like being a martyr.”
Pope Francis

All images in courtsey of Netflix.

4 thoughts on “behind the vatican walls

  1. I am so glad to read your review, Viveka. I had read an interview with Anthony Hopkins and he spoke about the film…..but that was it. No further information about it. I can’t wait to see it. Growing up Catholic, the Pope always loomed large in my life.

    • So glad that you got some use of my post and review – it’s a great film … very pleasant and the acting is of the highest class. Funny too. Both have my kind of humour. *smile You will enjoy it.

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