Jan Kormasa’s Polish-language drama Corpus Christi showcases the power of second chances. While the film does drag at times and has some predictable elements, Bartosz Bielenia’s central performance as Daniel is worth the price of admission.
Daniel has been released from juvie and isn’t enthused about going with his fellow ex-cons to work in a sawmill. So, he uses his guile to insinuate himself in a small rural community as a substitute priest. Daniel’s affectations for the priesthood are not that surprising given his respect for Father Tomasz, a clerical leader at the detention facility. Despite wanting to be like the Father, it is Tomasz that tells Daniel that ex-cons can never go to seminary school.
Daniel’s facade as the town’s own “Father Tomasz” is a wobbly house of cards doomed to failure, and I was eager for the film to get on with it. However, watching Daniel grow into the role as the fake Father and help troubled villagers along the way proved compelling. This familiar character arc never felt rote; Daniel’s spiritual enlightenment seems genuine, and Bielenia conveys a wide range of emotions as Daniel undergoes a necessary transformation.
With a visceral final scene that hints at Daniel’s future challenges, Corpus Christi avoids a neat and tidy ending, leading us to question how much societal change one ex-con fake priest can enact. It’s an issue worth contemplating as Corpus Christi asks us to consider who deserves forgiveness for their past transgressions.
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