Netflix’s Johnny: Is the Polish Movie Based on Father Jan Kaczkowski’s Life?

Netflix’s ‘Johnny’ is a Polish drama movie chronicling the life of Jan Kaczkowski and his imprint on the world around him. Directed by Daniel Jaroszek, the movie received critical acclaim among Polish film circles upon its initial release in 2022. It tells the moving story of the relationship between Patryk, an ex-criminal, and Jan, a priest. After the court orders the latter to do community service, he works at Father Jan’s hospice as penance for his misdeeds.

Father Jan, full of empathy and kindness, presents Patryk with a different worldview and drastically changes his perspective on life. The movie employs a radically empathetic outlook on suffering and death as an innate human condition and tells an incredibly moving story about rehabilitation. If this heartwarming tale about second chances has left you wondering about the story’s true origin, you might be curious to find out more about its inspiration. If so, here is everything you need to know about ‘Johnny.’

Johnny: Adaptation of a True Tale

Yes, ‘Johnny’ is based on a true story. Maciej Kraszewski wrote the screenplay for the movie, but this isn’t his only time telling the story of Father Jan Kaczkowski. Alongside the film, Kraszewski’s novel of the same name was first published in September 2022. Kraszewski learned about Father Jan’s life from Patryk Galewski himself. He wanted to tell the authentic tale of the self-described “onco-celebrity” through a light-hearted, at times humorous lens while still conveying the magnitude behind Father Jan’s influence.

Father Jan was a priest of the Catholic Church and founded The Puck Hospice, a healthcare organization dedicated to Saint Padre Pio. In his earlier years— during a chaplainship— he had visited numerous sick people with cancer and witnessed their agonies. Father Jan realized early on that something had to be done to aid people in need, so he started his hospice on wheels. Recruiting the help of many doctors and nurses that he had contact with, the priest continued to work with them and help out the sick. Soon, through extraordinary personal effort, community funding, and support, he established a stationary Hospice in 2009.

Alongside his bioethics efforts, Father Jan wrote several books revolving around the importance of living life to the fullest. In his works, he explored his experiences living with a terminal disease and how it affected his relationship with the world around him. His most notable literary endeavors are, ‘The Art of Living Without Lies’ and ‘Life on a Full Firecracker – Faith, Tenderloin, and Love.’ Father Jan was first diagnosed with glioblastoma, a brain tumor, in 2012. The doctor only gave him a few months to live when he was diagnosed. However, the celebrated priest lived a few more years and achieved many exceptional feats before passing away in 2016.

Father Jan Kaczkowski//Image Credit: Maskacjusz TV/YouTube

In addition, the film explores the relationship between Father Jan and Patryk. It details how the clergyman guides Patryck out of a dark phase in his life. The friendship between these two men that forms the basis of the film’s narrative is also inspired by real-life events. The movie is a faithful adaptation of Patryk’s life. Patryk had been raised with a neglectful and abusive father and turned to substance abuse. Like his counterpart in the film, Patryk also had to work through many of his issues and was ultimately changed by his experience at the Puck Hospice.

Now Patryk is a successful chef and has a happy and healthy family with his wife and three kids. He is the founder of Fundacja Ks. Kaczkowskiego, a non-profit organization that cherishes the memory of Father Jan Kaczkowski. It focuses on helping patients in the medical care system and providing emotional and mental support to individuals. Some of their many projects include helping families of people with oncological diseases and running culinary workshops for correctional facilities.

This focus on rehabilitation and emotional support for the terminally ill forms the cornerstone of the narrative presented in ‘Johnny.’ Due to the biographical nature of this movie and the screenplay writer’s authentic consultation with the people involved with this tale, ‘Johnny’ does a beautiful job of telling Father Jan’s story with dedicated accuracy.

Read More: Where Was Netflix’s Johnny Filmed?