There is always a myriad of truth in our stories no matter how fantastical the themes. Calvary does little to hide them. The film is set in rural Ireland, within the Catholic Church, once considered the backbone of the Irish soul. The church has betrayed its people, covering up the monstrous acts committed by their own hand.
Father James (Brendan Gleeson) listens in confessional to a man destroyed by rape at the hands of a priest. James offers to help the man by turning in the accused priest. The man refuses, stating the priest has since died, and that it didn’t matter. His confession is that he will kill father James in seven days, hoping to send a message. “Killing a bad priest isn’t a big deal, but if you kill a good priest, people take notice.” And thus a comedy is born, a dark and tragic one at that.
Calvary is an outstanding film if you have a taste for the long drawl and have had your fill of action this summer. It is a film of deep emotion and moral grounding without being preachy. Calvary is pitch black in its humor, attributed to the bitter and brilliant writing and directing of John Michael McDonagh (The Guard). Father James is a good natured priest in a town that wants nothing to do with God. We follow Father James on a journey of forgiveness and good will in the face of his inevitable doom. He lives a peaceful and simple life shared by his loving dog, walking the beaches of his home and trying his best to assist with the myriad of morally disgruntled locals; however, as his final days become fewer, he too loses restraint and his moral demeanor.
Brendan Gleeson is supported by a troupe of brilliant actors, including a breakout performance by costar Chris O’Dowd. Brendan’s son, Domhnall Gleeson, gives a solid performance, and Kelly Reilly is wonderful as the troubled voice of compassion. The caliber of performance by Gleeson is truly astounding. His ability on screen to alternate between drama and comedy is superlative. It would be a grand oversight if there isn’t an Oscar nod for Calvary and Gleeson’s performance.
Calvary Plays through September 18th at the Grand Cinema in downtown Tacoma and at the Ark Lodge Theater in Seattle.
-Adam Dunn is theBlanketFort.net’s Tacoma contributing author.