Friday, August 29, 2014


***1/2 out of ****

John Michael McDonough’s, Calvary, is a dialogue driven story about a week in the life of a small-town Irish priest, played excellently by Brendan Gleeson, who has received a threat on his life in the confession booth from an unseen man who wishes to punish the Catholic Church for a childhood of constant sexual abuse by a now-deceased clergyman.

The rest of the film involves the priest, possibly accepting the fate of murder as he continues his troubled relationship with a community who regularly show him apathy and disrespect. He’s patient and tolerant. The existence of his grown daughter (Kelly Reilly) is proof that he knows the trials and tribulations of adult life outside his now anointed status. Like Christ suffering the sins of the world, he’s essentially a good priest suffering the sins of the priesthood.

There is a dark-comedy undercurrent to the film found in the characters the priest sees. His daughter has come to stay with him after a suicide attempt. His associate priest (David Wilmot) is an ignorant nitwit. The town Butcher’s (Chris O’Dowd) battered wife (Orla O’Rourke) is having an affair with the mechanic (Isaach De Bankolé) and a few other local men. There’s also a drunken millionaire (Dylan Moran), a rude bartender (Patt Shortt) a sadistic doctor (Aiden Gillen) and many other troubled souls including an incarcerated serial killer played by Domhnhall Gleeson (Brendan's son). These people regularly engage the priest provoking him to impart genuinely experienced sound wisdom, only to disregard it -or throw it in his face.

His daughter grudgingly gives him a rough time but is ultimately a loving person. He also occasionally delivers goods to a reclusive aging American writer (M. Emmett Walsh), who enjoys the priest’s company but challenges him with the request of a gun should he need to take himself out one day. The only moment of real solace in the film is when he comforts a widow, played by the beautiful Marie-Josée Croze, who dealing with the reality of love and mortality seems to be on the same page as this troubled man.

This is in no way, a feel-good movie, but is thought provoking beyond my words and likely to stir up discussion among religious and non-religious people alike. It’s a bitter film, but cinematically poetic beyond the abilities of most who tackle this kind of material.

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