Almost Holy Review
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Summer is a time for movies about heroes with superhuman powers facing ruthless, power-hungry villains in the biggest, noisiest, most eye-catching ways. But in the documentary Almost Holy, director Steve Hoover travels to a troubled Ukrainian city to follow a real man on his quest to save a bunch of kids who find themselves living on the streets.

Almost Holy introduces viewers to Ukrainian pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko, the founder of Pilgrim Republic, a home and rehab center for drug-addicted kids in the town of Mariupol. In a war-torn country with no real agencies set in place—and not enough resources to care for the multitude of kids who live on the streets—Gennadiy often acts as police officer, jailer, doctor, and father figure. And the film follows as he works with both children and adults, confronts government agencies and drug dealers, and leads protests—all while watching for the seemingly inevitable arrival of the Russian army.

Almost Holy is a heartbreaking film—one that doesn’t sugarcoat the painful realities. It’s the story of war and politics and the innocent young victims who end up living in horrible conditions. These are kids whose parents are either long forgotten or too intoxicated to pay them any attention. They spend their lives fighting the elements, the predators, and their addictions for survival.

And then there’s Gennadiy—a remarkable, fascinating character. He isn’t the kind of guy who stands in front of TV cameras to make his point, though he does also end up on camera quite often—and he speaks with confidence and composure, never shying away from the media attention. More importantly, though, he’s a man of action—a vigilante do-gooder who doesn’t have time to wait for government agencies to step in and help. He goes out to the streets and brings the kids in—by force, if needed. He faces abusers, pedophiles, and the government officials who have neither the time nor the resources to change a thing. He gathers groups to protest. And he speaks for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Of course, he’s a controversial character, too. After all, he’ll freely admit that he has no real legal right to do any of the things he does—to drag some kids off the streets and take others out of unhealthy situations. You may not agree with his actions or his approach. You might even question his motives. But it’s hard to deny that, despite his flaws, he’s doing some good—and his heart is in the right place.

In telling his journey through more than a decade, however, the film covers a lot of ground and tells a lot of stories. It skips and jumps through time, often losing its focus—and, for that reason, the storytelling isn’t exactly smooth. But the overall effect is still thought-provoking and memorable. It isn’t about churches or religion—it’s a powerful film about venturing into the gray areas to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.

Almost Holy is a challenging film about a controversial figure. It’s tragic and gritty, and it may just make you want to take action, too. It isn’t as fun as a big-budget superhero thriller, but it’s definitely worth seeking out.

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