Often moving but also disquieting and even intermittently funny, this drama unfurls a spiritual parable that is uniquely Polish but accessible to all.
Bartosz Bielenia, an actor with burning blue eyes and an ability to be so still it’s as if he can freeze the frame by himself, stars as Daniel, a young ne’er do well from Warsaw who, for crimes only later revealed, is in juvenile detention.
He’s first seen watching the door as some teens brutalise a boy in a metalwork class while the guard is out, but sheer luck opens another door for him. Drawn to religion but not allowed to join a seminary because of his criminal record, he travels to a rural town once he’s paroled to take up work in a sawmill. A little grey lie lets him take the identity of the young new priest, Tomasz, that the town is expecting, and soon Daniel is performing mass and hearing confessions while the older resident curate dries out in rehab for a while.
Around this midpoint, as Daniel/Tomasz gets used to being looked after in plush new digs by bossy matron Lidia (Aleksandra Konieczna) and gets to know the townsfolk, the film risks feeling like an episode of Father Ted as directed by Robert Bresson.
The plot takes an interesting turn when Daniel learns that a tragic road accident has traumatised the community, and he discovers an unexpected skill at pastoral care as he tries to help heal the damaged psyches of the bereaved – many of them barely younger than himself, including Lidia’s pretty teenage daughter, Eliza (Eliza Rycembel).
All the aforementioned might lead you to expect some kind of soppy redemptive trajectory, but that’s not where this film goes in the end, landing instead on a much bleaker, thoughtful note. Piotr Sobociński’s blue-toned cinematography enhances the rapturous air and enhances a smartly written, unsettling work of realism.
Source: The Guardian