Houston Coley’s review published on Letterboxd:
Stylistically and structurally, this is undoubtedly a little uneven from start to finish; I haven't seen any of Meirelles' other movies, but I can't quite decide how I feel about his approach here. Sometimes, the attempt at a documentary/mockumentary shooting format does a great job of drawing me into the moment; other times, it feels like it pushes me away. The scene-to-scene naturalism works beautifully at times, but at others it feels somewhat contradicted by the traditionally cinematic devices used throughout, like the extreme wide scenery shots, the flashbacks, and some of the music choices.
Still, I can't say that I didn't love this. Analyzing the plot and structure here feels pretty inconsequential when so much of the experience is dependent on the two characters, and Hopkins/Pryce are just...phenomenal at portraying them. Juan Minujín (who plays the young Bergoglio) is captivating, too. Theologically, this is such a fascinating story to me; the film is at its most interesting in my book when the Popes are just having impassioned debates about religious doctrine and how best to serve God in a changing world. I'm not a Catholic, but I'd definitely consider myself progressively religious, and I've been learning in the past few years to take joy in appreciating all of the various denominations of Christianity in their own ways. If Pope Francis is anything like the guy Jonathan Pryce portrays here, I've got so much respect for him.
Most of the conversations between the two Popes are fictional, based upon the theological stances expressed in assorted letters and statements from both men over the years, but there's so much truth and vulnerability expressed that it's hard to care who 'really' said what. These are conversations and debates and feelings I've had raging in my own head for years; it feels cathartic to see them expressed onscreen, representative of the inner monologue of millions of people of faith everywhere.