Saturday, April 19, 2008


Inspired by true stories, The Pope's Toilet focuses on the events, some real and some imagined, that surrounded the Pope's 1988 visit to Uruguay where the anticipation for huge crowds sparked the entrepreneurial spirit for the people in economically depressed town of Melo. Beto and his family sustain themselves from the money he earns smuggling goods from Brazil on his bike. But the papal visit sends everyone into a frenzy preparing food and merchandise, overextending themselves financially with the dream of getting rich quick. Beto is no different, but he has a different idea: build a public toilet for the throngs and charge a small fee. Fallen on hard times, Beto will do anything he can to come up with the money to construct the commode in time.

The most compelling moments of this film are the depictions of Beto and his friends making the 40 mile trek with their bikes, loaded with goods, through pastures and rivers. The bikes are their livelihood, and the boarder patrol is their enemy. The opening sequence when the smugglers are being chased by the motor patrol is absolutely captivating. However, as the film settles into Beto's hair-brained idea, and his character goes from being abusive to lovable and then back to abusive, the film loses some of its energy. Beto takes out his insecurity and failure on his wife and daughter, who, unbeknown to him, have dreams of their own.

Needless to say, the crowds do not arrive, no one buys the food, no one buys the merchandise, and no one needs to use the toilet. The people of Melo, both real and fictionalized, are no doubt victims of circumstance. The Pope's Toilet shows their situation with unvarnished sincerity, but fails in the follow through, resigning to melodrama and the need for closure.

No comments: