2014 / Director. John Michael McDonagh.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
The church isn't faring too well in cinema lately. Dark secrets of the past have come back to torment them and many films have cast a shadow of doubt across their whole institution. With movies like PHILOMENA, SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD and DOUBT leading the charge it would seem to be a laborious effort for CALVARY to come along to tackle the same themes. It is to writer/director John Michael McDonagh's credit that CALVARY is, indeed, a breath of fresh air. It approaches the issue of child-sexual abuse within the church from a new angle and introduces us to a parishioner who is irrefutably good. We are introduced to him at a moment in time when he is given a death threat with only seven days to live. Inside a confessional he is confronted by a man who's abuse at the hands of the church has lead him to exact a revenge that will truly rock the community and bring upon a question of faith amongst them all. The film chronicles the priest's seven days leading to his confrontation with his tormentor. During this time he is challenged with all forms of unholy conduct amongst his community and his faith in God is tested to its limit. Brendan Gleeson leads the film in yet another outstanding performance. He is supported by an ensemble of formidable players such as Kelly Reilly, Chris O'Dowd, Dylan Moran and M Emmet Walsh amongst others. The script is exceptional and unravels in a provocative and revealing manner. The first act of the film caught my attention immediately, however the second act began to test my patience. Many of the character interactions seems sporadic and inconsequential and for a moment I began to lose interest... and then came the final act, which tied all things together and brought the story to a head. Part comedy, part mystery and part tragedy the film is rich in its textures. The Irish landscape and celtic soundtrack firmly ground the story and its setting while the various characters of questionable values and reasonable suspicion make CALVARY one of the year's most intriguing films. There are some questions that are left unanswered and that pleased me to no end. If a film is truly going to prod you and get you thinking then it may as well leave you to ponder over it once its finished. Brendan Gleeson can't put a foot wrong and this is amongst his finest turns. Excellent.