Almost Holy (Crocodile Gennadiy) Reviews
These kids live in the sewers. They are castoffs. They are junkies. Crocodile Gennadiy, as he is called, takes them in - sometimes to his rehabilitation centre, sometimes right into his expansive family. There's no sweet talk to the kids, the dealers, the abusers, the implicit pharmacists. No one is spared.
Shot in beautiful green and blue shades by John Pope, "Almost Holy" brings a jarring aesthetic to the real life horrors on screen. It's a disturbing film documenting a superhero single-handedly wrestling a catastrophe, and often winning. It answers one of life's toughest questions: "what can I possibly do?" Quite a bit as it turns out.
The film is well shot and beautifully captures the gray depressing sights of Mariupol. Ominous smoke stacks burn perpetually in the background alongside shattered and neglected school yards, a glimpse into the priorities of the social order. Everyone is generally content to empower this pastor to continue his work and only mildly criticize his vigilante nature, but little is done to combat the systemic cause of all the suffering.
The tone of the film is relentless in its despair and offering only brief glimmers of hope. The somber message is, however, delivered with subtlety, so the film is not overly weighed down to the point of being despondent.
I think the best way to describe the film is that there is taint to all of the work the pastor must complete that is echoed in the filming and subtle recurring themes showcased. This really highlights the unspoken burden and toll of being a person who goes beyond the law to right wrongs. There is no particular clean glory in being a true moral vigilante. Stylized vengeance is a cheap moment, a life filling the void of ordered society is a different sort of justice. It is darker and much more unsettling. There is a tendency to aggrandize and sanctify the business of helping the truly downtrodden, it is referred to as a holy or wholly pure activity. The title of the film is well chosen in that it captures the real nature of moral vigilantism as exemplified by the character being studied.
There is an interesting recurring theme with water and ritual cleansing that really develops the film's message and the pastor's life. Despite all the water and ritual, the unsettling taint of forces that necessitate his work are never fully washed away. There is no way to "fully clean one's soul", Genniady notes in the film.