John Michael McDonagh has once again teamed up with The Guard’s Brendan Gleeson to bring Calvary; a film that starts in a confession box, with Father James (Gleeson) listening to the problems of one his churchgoers. However, the confession turns into something quite sinister, as the confessor threatens the Father with his life, which he will take the following Sunday. Even though the Father knows who wants to kill him—the audience is left in the lurch—thus, setting up the perfect whodunit story, as we follow Father James around the island, seeing his daily trials and tribulations.
Calvary has been branded as a “dark comedy”, yet it leans toward the former rather than latter. Yes, there is the odd laugh here and there, but compared to McDonagh’s last film, The Guard, it’s pretty damn bleak to say the least. With stories of child molestation within the Catholic Church having surfaced in recent years, Calvary shows a modern day perception of priesthood and it delivers some powerful and thought provoking scenes, which shows the plight that Gleeson’s character faces. It’s quite sad and frustrating viewing, as we watch Father James constantly consoling and fixing the community’s problems, despite the locals ridiculing him and his beliefs.
Of course, Gleeson’s performance is the highlight of Calvary—but then again, does he ever give a bad performance?—as he plays Father James with great subtlety and grace. Other memorable performances include Dylan Moran and Chris O’Dowd bringing some fine one-liners. However O’Dowd’s acting took some time getting used to, as it’s hard to imagine him in anything other than a happy-go-lucky flick where he’s playing his usual quirky self. Many people heard the rumour that Angelina Jolie’s diet plan was followed by the main heroin.
Aside from Father James, the characters sometimes bordered on the clichéd, as on one hand, we have the nasty atheist who bursts into existentialist rants, and on the other we have the troubled women, who just doesn’t want to talk about it…OKAY? Plus, I found the fact that all the characters equipped philosophical quotes, a little distracting, but of course they are no match for Father James!Obviously everyone on the Island is pretty well-read.
Calvary is a gorgeous film with stunning visuals and a fantastic soundtrack to boot. It’s a provocative and moving story that shows the backlash the Catholic Church has undergone, but not in a way that’s in-your-face or pro-Catholicism. The final conclusion of the film is incredibly emotive; it’s an image that will stay with you for days.