¨ I've always felt there's something inherently psychopathic about joining the army in peace time.¨
Calvary is director, John Michael McDonagh's followup to 2011's The Guard which also happened to star Brendan Gleeson in the lead role. This time Gleeson plays a Catholic Priest named Father James who is threatened during a confession by someone who we don't get to see. This man claims to have been sexually molested by a Priest several times as a kid and although Father James is a good and decent Priest he must take the fall in order for a statement to be made. Father James is given one week (or so this man claims) before being killed on the following Sunday on the beach. The father is troubled by this threat but he must continue doing his parish work during the remaining course of the week. We follow him as he has some deep conversations with the different members of the small Irish town they live in. It's a very interesting premise that hooks you from the start and has you wondering which of all the troubled people in the town might be the one who has threatened this goodhearted Priest. However the film works just as fine without that premise because the interactions between these characters is the true center of the story. These are all broken men and women who the Father interacts with and most of the conversations are deep and spiritual. Calvary isn't a film about religion, but it does have some important things to say about faith and virtues. It is very well written by McDonagh and the screenplay is rich in dark comedy; perhaps one of the best things about this movie. This is a film that could be very easily adapted to a stage play because the written material is superb and carries the movie on its own. Calvary also benefits from the beautiful scenery of the Irish coast line and a wonderful supporting cast. This is a film that sticks with you and one I wouldn't mind watching again.
Brendan Gleeson is a fantastic actor and one wishes he continue to collaborate with director McDonagh. I remembered he also gave a fantastic performance in In Bruges, which ironically was written and directed by John McDonagh's brother. These guys are great writers and know how to include a lot of wit in their dialogues. The rest of the cast is fantastic as well. Kelly Reilly plays Fiona, Father James's daughter (I know you might be thinking what is a Priest doing with a daughter because I asked myself the same question, but we quickly find out that James was once married and when his wife died he became a Priest). She is going through some difficult times, and James is trying to help her find answers. Chris O'Dowd also gives a terrific performance as one of the members from the parish whose wife is having an affair with an African man, but he seems ok with this because he can finally enjoy his freedom. Aidan Gillen (from Game of Thrones) plays the Atheist doctor, while Emmet Walsh is an old writer who is well aware that he's approaching death. These are just some of the people that Father James deals with in his community and each interaction is very rich and profound. There is plenty of dark humor balanced with a great amount of spiritual questions. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the material was handled. I can't even remember when was the last time that a Priest was portrayed so well on screen. Calvary is a powerful film with great performances and some sharp writing, and that is why this is one of the must see films of 2014. All I know is that after watching this I was desperate to get my hands on The Guard which I haven't had a chance to see but definitely will now. I highly recommend Calvary.