In the Name of (NR)

Drama December 31, 1969
By John Oursler
Father Adam (Andrzej Chyra) wears Illinois college swag while refereeing a soccer match for troubled teens in a backwoods Polish town. This and other visual cues immediately distinguish him as an outsider, though it's unclear why this man is where he is. The mystery surrounding his difference is the driving force behind Malgoska Szumowska's In the Name of, a nuanced, character-driven critique of the Catholic Church and its regressive stance on homosexuality. Like Christian Petzold's Barbara, another masterful dissection of place and time, Name uses the othering process as a mechanism for narrative intrigue. Adam runs the facility that helps those wayward teens, a dynamic that likens their situation to his loneliness. When he rebuffs an offer from a beautiful local woman, a rare city person among otherwise homophobic, anti-Semitic locals, intuition tells you that more than religious devotion is keeping him from sealing the deal. It makes sense when you learn that he is gay and, as a result, has been suffering from a corrosive self-denial. The exogenous factors contributing to his turmoil are the ones in which he's most indoctrinated, and by humanizing this broader struggle, Szumowska's institutional denouncements are even more heartbreaking and scathing. She smartly draws parallel courses of self-discovery between the teenagers and the comparably nascent adult protagonist to texture what could have been an otherwise banal coming-out story. A roving camera exacerbates the sense of dread that surrounds Adam's restrained melancholy -- sadly, a fitting tone for what life must be like for a gay Polish priest.
Beata Hughes Guy Fearon, Ata Ali, Laurel Andrews, Melissa Collier, Annika Hammerton, Simon McLinden, Michael Sheldon Tiger Ventures