A festival hit in Poland, this drama tells the story of Zbigniew Religa (Tomasz Kot), the ambitious cardiovascular surgeon who triumphed over a stubborn communist bureaucracy in the 1980s to perform the country’s first successful heart transplant. The operation led to a monumental overhaul of Poland’s archaic healthcare system, but screenwriter Krzysztof Rak unwisely abstains from political commentary to focus solely on the doctor’s personal plight, turning a historic story into a routine hero’s journey. Kot portrays Religa as a manic obsessive, and the incredibly gory opening sequence, which shows him digging through a cadaver and timing how long it takes to remove the heart, reminded me of torture porn. But the film gradually settles into a traditional biopic, right down to the cliché American pop on the soundtrack. Lukasz Palkowski directed. In Polish with subtitles.
By Drew Hunt