It’s hard out there for a priest. The clerical collar and cassock of the Roman Catholic Church once represented morality, self-sacrifice and humble wisdom. But for many, it now calls to mind decades of child molestation and coverups. Brendan Gleeson’s character in Calvary is a good priest, but that doesn’t do anything for his small Irish town’s dwindling faith. In fact, his goodness is exactly what makes him such a great target, according to the man who threatens to murder him in the film’s extraordinary opening scene.
Writer/director John Michael McDonagh uses that premise not to start a mystery story, but to make a contemplative film about faith, family, integrity and doubt, wrapped around the same biting humor that graced his first feature film, The Guard (2011). Calvary is a moving film thanks to its rich, distinct characters, but its power lies in its subtle details and existential turmoil.
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Writer: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, Isaach De Bankolé, M. Emmet Walsh
Production Details: Irish Film Board, 100 minutes