White Elephant – review

This hard-hitting tale of Catholic priests working in the slums of Argentina thrills from start to finish

This excellent, hard-hitting movie from one of Latin America's rising talents centres on two dedicated priests, the Argentinian Father Julián (Ricardo Darín) and the French Father Nicolas (Jérémie Renier), battling with the cautious church leaders and corrupt politicians to serve their slum parish and build a hospital while trying to keep the peace between rival drug gangs. The material is familiar, but the milieu is vividly realised and there's both an arresting opening when Father Nicolas sees the Indians he's been serving in the jungle butchered by a punitive military mission and a superbly staged climax during a riot in the slum district. The two actors are both formidable and sensitive, and Federico Barga is terrific as the dedicated social worker Nicolas falls for and has a transgressive affair with. The election of an Argentinian pope with a strong sense of social justice gives the film a peculiar and biting topicality.


Philip French

The GuardianTramp

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