Corpus Christi [TIFF19 Review]

Corpus Christi isn’t like most religious films, or at least the ones I have seen over the years. Church and religion might be at the centre of it all, but it’s about much more. Faith, redemption and second chances are at the centre of it all. A tale that we have all seen but not in the way Corpus Christi tells it. Daniel’s life has been anchored by crime and violence, even when in juvie he’s complicit in all of it. But when he finally gets out, going back to his old ways seemed to be what would happen to him. But on his way to work, he takes a detour and finds himself reinventing his life, this time as a young priest.

What the film does best is to show us who Daniel truly is without words spoken. The lighting is probably the best way that his spirituality is shown before anything. Always basked in light, he seems to be out of this world while still in it. He doesn’t fit in anymore, an outsider in the world he has known forever. Even when he goes back, after getting out, he goes back to his old ways, drowning shots, doing lines of cocaine and sleeping with the first woman he meets. His life seems to be one we know, a young felon who, even when trying, can’t escape his past. It’s a story that we have seen, a man’s path to eventual redemption, but it’s done in a way that is unique and beautiful. From the first moment, you are immersed in Daniel’s world and you can never escape it.

While it’s easy to question some of the film’s story, like the fact that Daniel is asked proof about being a priest only once in the film and a stupid excuse gets him out of it quickly, the story itself is strong. Daniel’s redemption doesn’t come easily if it comes at all. By the end, Daniel is back where he started, back in the life he escaped and so his redemption wasn’t truly about him. I think that’s what the film is truly about. Daniel might be at the centre of it all but he is only the vehicle used to help others to the path of forgiveness. He redeemed himself by helping others. The story that Corpus Christi tells is so much more about forgiveness than anything else.

Corpus Christi uses the mystery surrounding the death of young kids to let Daniel explore his own life. He isn’t there just to pretend to be a priest and amuse us with his antics, he has a purpose and his exploration of the mystery helps set it up. The mystery around it never feels cheap and doesn’t drag on forever. Things are revealed, yes, at a slow pace but it makes sense. Daniel is a stranger to them, it’s only when they get to know him that they start to reveal more. The more time he spends with them, the more they open up. Without ever telling us how much time is past, we can get it simply by the way the story is told. That’s something I truly appreciated because the film never felt the need to explain more then we needed, we could fill in the gaps by ourselves and the filmmaker understood that.

Corpus Christi is one of those nice little surprises you don’t expect. A film that might not be on your radar but blows you away in every aspect, so much so that you are willing to forgive it’s faults. A film that doesn’t try to push anything down your throat and instead just does what it needs to do in order to tell the story that it went. Combine all of that with beautiful cinematography and a magnetic performance from its lead and you obtain a film that deserves a lot more attention than it ever will get.