The Pope’s Toilet (El Bãno Del Papa) is set up to be a droll satirical comedy about the supposed effect the Pope’s visit to a small Uruguayan town had. Based on true events, there is some humour in the small town folks dreaming of this one day windfall of pilgrims visiting their town – strategically placed near the Brazilian border (the Pope did not visit Brazil on that visit). And yet there really aren’t any jokes except at the expense of the simple folk of the town. And whilst there may be a degree of venal cunning displayed in the townsfolk’s opportunism, this has to be balanced against their abject poverty. Bearing in mind that our lead regularly cycles 60 km a day via the countryside to smuggle goods from Brazil, you can’t begrudge them a day of dreams. I don’t think the film does. But then where is the humour in someone risking their entire standing and livelihood to smuggle a toilet over the border to try and make a little bit of money out of hordes of tourists?

The promised tourists don’t come. The three hundred and eighty seven stalls set up by locals to exploit their promised windfall go unpatronised. The toilet is not used. And there is a look of abject desolation, a failure of the scheme yes, but also a dashing of hope too. No matter how the film tries to tag a life goes on ending to the film, it does not convince. The film really ends with the realisation of failure. This is not a comedy, it is a searingly angry film about poverty, and to a lesser extent religion. It is about striving so hard for something, pushing yourself to the limit and then realising there is nowhere left to go. Except for on the Pope’s Toilet you just used your life savings to buy. And you can’t even flush those dreams away without using a bucket.
(By the way, that’s the Japanese poster above. The original one is below. The Japanese one is MUCH better.)