"I'm going to kill you because you're innocent"
- Calvary review by WS
Father James is a compassionate, liberal-minded priest who, we learn, took ordination in later life after being widowed. Sadly, the parish in which he finds himself is one in which cynicism and duplicity abound. Many members of the community still attend Mass, but outside of church they are openly contemptuous of the priesthood and seem to take perverse satisfaction in antagonising him and trying to undermine his faith. One day in confession, a male parishioner recounts - in uncompromising detail - his experiences of childhood rape at the hands of a priest. The perpetrator is dead, but as a means of retribution against the Church he intends to kill Father James, who he instructs to meet him on the beach in a week's time.
Over the next few days, the Father goes about his parochial duties as normally as possible. Among the people he tries to help are a former banker whose opulent lifestyle has left him feeling hollow, a gauche sexually-frustrated young man who is contemplating joining the army, and, improbably, a teenage serial killer who claims to be seeking redemption.
The dramatic tension inherent in this simple idea is exploited to the maximum by J.M. McDonough and the cast. It is highly atmospheric, the camerawork consisting of mostly tightly composed shots, with close-ups of Brendan Gleeson's face at crucial moments in the story and occasional menacing aerial shots of the famous flat-topped mountain that overlooks the village, and without any intrusive music. We are kept guessing until very late the course of action that Father James will choose - flee, go to the police, passively accept his fate or even defend himself with a pistol he has unlawfully acquired. He is a conscientious man but flawed enough for us to relate to. Towards the end he struggles to maintain his dignity and sobriety in the face of his death sentence and the increasing hostility he faces from the community.
Some may find the eccentric characters and understated dark humour to be at odds with the grim subject matter, and I personally thought the hospital morgue scene with Teresa (Marie-Josee Croze) was misjudged - she seems far too calm and rational for someone who's just lost her family in a road accident.
But all in all I found this a very brave and original piece, and one of the most powerful films of the year.
7 out of 8 members found this review helpful.
brilliant film, but a comedy it ain't
- Calvary review by Kate
This was one of the best films I've seen in a long while, and I'll be contemplating its meaning for a long time. Father James, as portrayed brilliantly by Brendan Gleeson, is a truly good man, just what you'd hope a priest would be - a man who has lived, and loved, and who understands human frailty, especially his own. He faces his own Calvary with absolute courage, even though he has plenty of opportunity to save himself. So why oh why is it classed as a comedy? There are a few very black comedic scenes, but for the most part this is a very deep and serious film, about life, death, abuse, grief, love and loss. Anyone looking for a comedy would be very disappointed. Luckily I had read reviews beforehand. A truly great picture and Brendan Gleeson well deserves the praise and recognition he has received.
4 out of 5 members found this review helpful.
Unremitting, plodding drivel.
- Calvary review by RL
I enjoyed 'The Guard' immensely, so had high hopes for 'Calvary'. All I can say is 'thank goodness for the fast forward button!"
This film stumbles from one overly-long, disjointed scene to the next, with a total lack of reason or logic and, fatally, no engagement with the characters. While a 'snap-shot' approach can work, in this instance it fails.
Definitely one to miss.
3 out of 11 members found this review helpful.
Improbable and malign
- Calvary review by AC
This is very poorly written. It is a great shame because some very fine actors did their best with a very adolescent script that went out of its way to create malign cardboard cut outs of real people. The priest seemed to know nothing of theology, for example, and merely gawped at the evil going on around him The other characters were likewise drawn directly from a deeply immature imagination that showed little empathy or creativity. Irish cinema is capable of much more, if only they can locate a competent scriptwriter. This was neither interesting, dramatic, nor funny.
1 out of 4 members found this review helpful.