Boiling unrest is where In the Name Of, lives on the spectrum of tonality, the strife bubbling and bubbling until it spills and makes a mess. Coming from Poland, and reflective of a still fragmented, prejudiced and polarized society, the film is heavy and insightful—You can almost feel the weight of burden the characters are carrying. However, the narrative pulse of the film is limp and the spirit of the film kind of meanders looking for its hub.
Transferred from his post in Warsaw Father Adam (played by acclaimed Polish actor Andrzej Chyra ) is sent to an isolated rural village to help supervise a Church-run home for boys—a place for at-risk and troubled young men to mend their wounds, or at least stay out of trouble. Recreation is limited to soccer games and the occasional sermon, but the handsome, active and kindhearted priest seems to have a relatively positive effect on the disorderly group and anyone else he comes across. Far from tranquil, any peace or progress made by Father Adam is thwarted when a new boy arrives and stirs trouble with speculation about Father Adam’s sexuality.
Directed and co-written by Małgorzata Szumowska (the Polish director/writer that brought us Elles, the 2011 French/German/Polish production starring Juliette Binoche), In the Name Of is an astute cinematic manifestation of the old-world narrow-mindedness that is shaped by prejudice and survives off of fear. Szumowska does a great job of illustrating the turmoil, desperation and commitment to secrecy that develops and then festers both internally and externally.
Chyra gives an inspired, brave and very whole performance as Adam, expressive of every shadow, every ounce of darkness, conflict, sexual frustration and self-hatred, as well as every degree of tenderness, compassion and vulnerability.
In the Name Of, touches on so many themes that are very closely related—the mystery of the Catholic Church; spirituality, devoutness and religious obligation; remnants of intolerance and religious bigotry; sexual desire, repression and guilt, etc. The film is a solid reflection of how society can function under these pressures and circumstances and it tells of the ramifications, but somehow, maybe because of a lack of focus, it feels like the heart of the storytelling is drowning.
Or maybe it just feels like we’re drowning, because the effect of personal and societal suffocation is so well-executed. Still, there is a sense that something is lost in the provocation of it all.