|Calvary starts dark and never lightens up, but gives you plenty of humour and food for thought along the way. Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a Catholic priest in a small village in Ireland. The opening confessional has one of his parishioners telling him they’re going to kill him in exchange for the molestation that he experienced at the hands of a priest when he was a young boy. Father James is innocent, but does that make him a good person? || ||2014 |
Directed by: John Michael McDonagh
Screenplay by: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson
The Catholic Church has rarely been shown in a positive light on the big screen in decades. The sins of its past continue to haunt every aspect of the Calvary, but the one main character, Father James, is a representative of the Church and he’s a kind-hearted man. He has committed no crimes, he cares for every member of his parish no matter how devoid of faith or decency they may be, and he takes the teachings of the Church to heart. Evil sneaks its way in somewhere.
Following the sinister warning, Father James seeks out every member of the parish to not just find out who is behind the threat but to help heal the dark secrets that each of them might be carrying. This is one dark town; in our introduction to each of the characters, we get domestic abuse, suicide and other forms of self-hatred and denial. Kelly Reilly plays Father James’ own daughter who is healing from a suicide attempt. Chris O’Dowd plays a seemingly evil man who might just be self-centered but harmless, but it’s also unclear how deep the dysfunction runs. Dylan Moran plays yet another man where the superficial front may just be covering his dark past.
|Courtesy of eOne films.|
It’s hard to remain good in the face of such misfortune and bad deeds. Father James holds onto his faith for as long as it can sustain him. At which point we get to start questioning where is the line between good and bad. For as dark as the film is, the dialogue maintains a very comedic rhythm. Characters have no problem making jokes of racism and indecency.
The humorous edge is needed because the film doesn’t just get dark, it gets slow. Father James is pretty sure he knows who’s behind the threat, but with so many sojourns through the town, we only get a few hints of which one is behind the threat. All of them are disturbed enough to be the victim-turned-murderer. Calvary is one part mystery and one part thoughtful character study as we examine how good is a good man in our current reality in the aftermath of the scandal of the Catholic Church.