Calvary is the second offering from writer-director John Michaeal McDonagh and iconic Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, and is a very different beast from its predecessor, The Guard.

We join Father James Lavelle (Gleeson) in the confessional, just as one of his parishioners  calmly informs him that he has a week to live.  The man on the other side of the divide plans to kill the priest a week on Sunday – he has eight days to get his affairs in order.  Father James may be a good man, but the Catholic Church, the voice surmises, is not.  The Catholic Church has lost its way, has allowed abuse and has failed to punish the abusers.  Now is the time for revenge; not against the guilty parties, but against one innocent priest.

Father James is a priest in the wrong place, at the wrong time

Father James is a priest in the wrong place, at the wrong time

What ensues isn’t so much a whodunnit as a who’s-going-to-do-it.  Father James thinks he knows, but we don’t.  All we can do is sit idly by as he goes about his business, knowing that any one of the villagers he encounters could be the one who wants to end the priest’s life.  And what a motley assortment of characters they are, too.  I was reminded of Father Ted, and the array of mad residents of Craggy Island.  The main difference being that most of these characters here aren’t so much mad, as deeply and irrevocably unpleasant.

TV favourites Dylan Moran (Black Books), Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd) and Aiden Gillen (Queer as Folk, Game of Thrones) are all in attendance, respectively playing the wealthy but troubled land-owner, wife-beating butcher and cynical doctor.  Some of the supporting characters seem rather crudely drawn or perhaps, because they’re so unlikable, its hard to see any depth in them.

None of that really matters though, when you have a stellar Gleeson at the absolute top of his game.  He’s simply wonderful as the grizzled, world-weary priest, and manages to subtly convey myriad emotions, essentially carrying the whole film, on his (thankfully) broad shoulders.  It is testament to Glesson’s abilities that he’s able to do so much of the work, while making it look completely effortless, and I can’t wait to see his next film.  Actually, maybe I’ll go back and have another look at The Guard, while I’m waiting.

Score: 8/10

13 responses to “Calvary

  1. Gleeson is tremendous here, which is a relief given the camera essentially follows his every move. Really enjoyed Calvary, more so than The Guard which lacked that bit of something for me. Great review Laura!


    • Thanks very much, Adam. Agreed, Gleeson is outstanding and yes, we’re lucky or it would’ve been a very differen experience!

      I remember quite liking The Guard at the time, but need to watch it again. I might have another go at In Bruges, too.

  2. I’ve been in two minds about whether or not to watch this as the subject matter isn’t really ‘me’, but the presence of Gleeson has convinced me to give it a try. I’m going tonight so I’ll keep your thoughts in mind!

  3. Pingback: Cider and Cinema Beer Special: In Bruges | filmnerdblog·

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