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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Corpus Christi (MA) - 115 minutes

Inspired by reality, Corpus Christi is a searing portrait of crime and redemption.

A young man, Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia), locked up in juvenile detention with other offenders, has – like them – had a troubled past.

They are taught trade skills, like learning how to saw.

They also attend church services delivered by a no-nonsense priest, Father Tomasz (Lukasz Simlat).

Daniel would dearly love to go on and take his vows, but given his history that simply won’t be possible.

Instead, he is destined to work in a sawmill factory in a rural community a long way away.

But upon seeing what his future holds, this – then 20-year-old – decides to take matters into his own hands.

He assumes the guise of a young clergyman and with the ageing vicar (Zdzislaw Wardejn) in town taking ill he soon assumes full responsibilities until the latter returns.

In no time, Daniel’s practical sermons and enthusiasm endear him to many.

The close-knit community is in a great deal of pain though.

A tragic motor vehicle accident claimed seven lives – six youngsters in one car and the driver of another, an older man.

Daniel attempts to find a way to help the bereaved deal with their grief and anger.

Among those suffering is the attractive daughter, Eliza (Eliza Rycembel), of the priest’s administrator, Lidia (Aleksandra Konieczna), who is also hurting badly.

Lidia and parents of the other children who died have ostracised the widow of the driver of the second vehicle, Ewa Kobielski (Barbara Kurzaj), whose husband they blame for the accident.

His is the only portrait missing from a makeshift shrine regularly attended by the loved ones of the six teens whose lives were lost.

Controversially, Daniel tries to bridge the divide.

And then his past catches up with him.

Bartosz Bielenia is unforgettable in the lead role. His piercing blue eyes see through to his character’s soul.

He is able to channel fear, apprehension and determination.

Piotr Sobocinski Junior’s frequent close-up cinematography reaches into the hearts of the key proponents.

The script by Mateusz Pacewicz and direction from Jan Komasa readily blends both sides of Daniel’s character – one that is brutal, a head-banger who likes to smoke, drink and party hard, and the other who finds peace in Jesus.

Many personas are well drawn. Pain and intimidation are the stock in trade. Secrets and lies underpin the story.

There is a lot going on here.

Eliza Rycembel is another who impresses, as the young woman who turns Daniel’s head from their first meeting.

Corpus Christi shocks and attracts, as only the best dramas do.

I felt eager to learn Daniel’s fate, uncertain that it is.

For me, this is up there with the very best films of the year.

Understandably, this Polish movie was nominated for Best International Feature at the 2020 Academy Awards.

Rated MA, it scores an 8½ out of 10.


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