Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a good catholic priest in a small Irish community. His life is turned upside down when during confession his life is threatened by a member of his parish. Despite the impending doom promised by the parishioner, Father James continues his duties as priest checking in on the perish members and serving the community. Even though its a small the membership is rife with troubles – often comedic – that Father James does his best to handle despite what feels like an ever looming troubling force. In the end he must decide if he has the courage to face his own troubles. Starring Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, Isaach De Bankole, M. Emmet Walsh, Marie-Jose Croze, Domhnall Gleeson, David Wilmot, Patt Shortt, Gary Lydon, Killian Scott, Orla O’Rourke, Owen Sharpe.
Calvary is dark yet surprisingly funny and ironic film that left me bewildered and depressed. It is a back-handed commentary on the troubles of the Catholic church without being too obvious or overstated to point of insulting. The real power behind the allure of this film lies with Gleeson who doesn’t just star in the film but dominates and makes it a success. Gleeson is an imposing figure of an actor yet he comes across extremely understated and humble, with an edge, in Calvary. I was enthralled with his performance and couldn’t see anyone else playing the role.
The story of the film is simple yet startling with some nice twists and turns that keep it interesting. One of the best parts of the film is the set up at the very beginning. The first few minutes throw you for a loop but set up the film very nicely with a little bit of mystery that isn’t mind bending but definitely enough to add a deeper level. Not that it is a shallow film. Calvary is surprisingly deep without being hard to follow or overwhelming. It isn’t always entertaining in the traditional sense of the word but it all works.
I will tell you I knew nothing about this movie going in so it was all a pleasant surprise in a strange way. I wasn’t kidding when I said that Calvary left me depressed so be aware of that as you enter into the theater. Totally worth it.
8/10 Stars – Why do all the troubled and strange people seem to live in a small town in movies?
Calvary is the kind of powerful film that comes from the actors. The opening scene paints a mood that hangs over the whole film even though it isn’t mentioned again until the end. Without Brendan Gleeson this movie would be forgettable. In a role that reminded me of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Father Flynn in Doubt, Gleeson is the focal point of every scene and he is omnipresent. He has a hand in everyone’s life of this small town and he goes forward as if he didn’t even have a death threat against him. This is the part that left me confused. He gets a death threat and a week goes by as if the threat was never there. Father James just goes on about his business trying to help the screwed up townsfolk with their petty comical issues as his very real death might be upon him.
I understand that sandwiched in between a startling opening scene and a powerful closing is a man trying to continue to be the innocent helper he has always been, but as far as a movie goes, why wasn’t there more emphasis on the impending death of this priest. Father James doesn’t seem too concerned with the fact he could possibly die in 7 days, and as a member of the audience, I would have liked to see more about that. Maybe I like suspense or a good mystery and I was expecting that, but that doesn’t deter from the message and the weight this movie creates. I think Calvary is the kind of movie you have to see more than once to understand the whole picture and how it correlates with the ending. So for now, I have to say I was disappointed but still would recommend seeing it because you might discover something I missed, or might find next time I see it.
6/10 Stars – Was baffled by the events in the middle, but with an opening, closing and awesome performance by Gleeson, this is worth a watch.