Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, Isaach De Bankolé, M. Emmet Walsh, Marie-Josée Croze, Domhnall Gleeson, Killian Scott
Directed By: John Michael McDonagh
Written By: John Michael McDonagh
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 1 hr 42 min
Calvary, was the site outside Jerusalem’s walls where Jesus was crucified, and as it turns out, the perfect title for John Michael McDonagh’s beautiful film. Following Father James (Brendan Gleeson) during perhaps the last week of his life after he is threatened during a confessional. Exploring a small town in County Sligo, Ireland, as its people question their faith in light of shocking revelations of sexual assaults by members of the Catholic Church. And to a lesser extent, process the massive economic downturn caused by greedy bankers and politicians around the world, who seem to have remained unpunished for their sins.
Calvary is an indictment of the Catholic Church, and its poor handing of the many sexual assault charges levied at its members and governing body. Who opted to sweep their gross improprieties under the proverbial rug, as guilty pedophile priests were transferred and hidden away from punishment. It speaks of a world that’s lost its faith, and puts poor Father James, a good honest man, in the center of it all to be punished for everyone’s sins.
The film counts down the days to his supposed execution by one of his flock. As he attempts to spread the comforting wisdom of God, to a congregation that no longer trusts the priesthood. And what starts out slowly, becomes more and more gripping as Father James heads towards his last judgment at the hands of his executioner. Brendan Gleeson is superb, and skillfully anchors this film as his character fights to restore the town’s faith, as well as hold on to his own. Larry Smith’s gorgeous cinematography, and Patrick Cassidy’s beautiful score had me wishing I had seen this in a theater, and guided by John Michael McDonagh’s patient direction, Calvary’s power stays with you hours after the final credits have rolled.
This film is a little slow to start, and even if you don’t understand everything the film is trying to do, stick with it as the journey is worth taking and lasts longer than the movie’s running time. For fans of Brendan Gleeson, this is a must see. Fans of Chris O’Dowd will likely enjoy his dramatic break from comedy too. The movie is rated R for language and brief violence.
This is a really gorgeous film, and I’m so disappointed I missed this during its frustratingly limited run at the theaters here in the US. At home a HD showing on the best TV and sound system you can find will have to do. Please don’t try to process this story on a portable screen.
Calvary is also very funny in places, and one scene in particular had me laughing out loud. A young man called Milo (Killian Scott) visits Father James at the church, and his excellently scripted reasoning for joining the armed forces was hysterical!
“I have had murderous feelings, though, I have to admit. Not getting laid, it’s starting to make me feel really angry towards women. And so I thought, well, if I join the Army, those inclinations, as you call them, would be seen as a plus. On your application, like. They don’t come right out and say that’s what they’re looking for. In the advertisements, it’s all about seeing the world and all that shite. But I would assume that wanting to murder someone would be like having a degree in engineering, you know, it would outweigh my lack of qualifications.” – Milo