Adam (Andrzej Chyra) is a priest in a small town, where he takes charge of some of the more wayward young men in the area. Adam is as comfortable kicking a ball around with his young charges, as he is speaking from the altar and it seems that he is well liked by all he encounters. That is, until a young man arrives in Adam’s care and upsets the careful balance by spreading rumours about the priest’s sexuality. The innate homophobia, racism and intolerance only adds fuel to the fire.
Director Malgorzata Szumowska has created a portrait of modern Poland that is as enlightening as it is disturbing. Abusive language and actions abound in a film that is anchored by the engaging leading man. Andrzej Chyra makes Adam a man who is very aware of his own desires, even as he runs from them. Adam’s gaze is magnetic, but Chyra makes the priest a fragile character, who seems to be only just holding himself together.
The rest of the cast is made up of Maja Ostaszewska as a lonely seductress, Tomasz Schuchardt as the bullish ‘Blondie’ who tips the balance in Adam’s world and Mateusz Kosciukiewicz as the young man who fatally tips Adam’s hand.
There have been many films exploring sexuality among the clergy but Szumowska and co-writer Michal Englert hve made a film filled with masculinity, in which the leading character struggles between the faith that chose him and who he has discovered himself to be. The film looks with compassion on the man who struggles with the choices he has made in his life and is equally filled with dread, fear, longing and desire, each a facet of the central character and each allowing us to learn more about a deeply conflicted man. Where the film falls down, however, is the final sequence, which manages to completely throw a spanner into the carefully ordered works. While this one moment serves as a commentary on the rest of the film, it also manages to contradict any progress that the characters have made. As well as this, the pacing does seem to falter from time to time, which means that the final payoff and revelations feel like they are a long time coming,
Michal Englert’s cinematography is filled with a haunting beauty, even as it captures a landscape as barren and unkempt as the characters themselves, and serves to underline the isolation that Adam feels as he struggles with where his life is going.
In all, In the Name Of is a fascinating and compassionate look at the idea of sexuality, not just in the clergy, but in Poland as a whole. Andrzej Chyra commands the screen as the conflicted and tortured priest and the rest of the cast manages their roles ably. The final resolution may feel like a disappointment, but this take of desire and faith is engagingly told.