Film Review: CALVARY

Written and Directed by John Michael McDonagh
Starring Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd, M. Emmet Walsh, Aiden Gillen

In the opening scene of CALVARY Father James is listening to the confession of a parishioner who tells him he was repeatedly molested as a child, and although that particular priest is dead, he intends to murder Father James in a week’s time. Although the priest knows who the parishioner is we do not, so the film functions, at its lowest level, as a whodunnit. Each character who crosses the screen in the next two hours is angry enough to have threatened the priest.
But as its highest level, this is a film about a man who serves as a sort of lightning rod for all the hostility and dissatisfaction in his village. Despite being a good man, no one treats him very well. Like Jesus he is heaped with scorn and blame, and even his daughter, functioning as a sort of Mary, credits him with deserting her at a critical moment.

This deeply unhappy narrative is blessed with a small degree of levity, beautiful cinematography, incredible acting, especially from Gleeson, and an intensity that makes it stand out. I can’t think of a better film I have seen this year.

Patti Abbott