Calvary goes beyond a classic whodunit style into a more elegant examination of ‘what good faith is’ among secular society. The film blends breath-taking dark humors reflected in dialogues between each character and serious questions about faith and doubt.
“The commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’ does not have an asterisk next to it with a list of situations at the bottom of the page where it is alright to kill.”
During one confession, Father James Lavelle (magnificently Brendan Gleeson), an amiable priest in bucolic Ireland, gets a death threat by a confessor. The man challenges Father James to meet him in a beach in order to be shot dead on behalf of a late pedophile priest he abhors. Given only a Sunday week to order the house (or his parish), Father James, like what IMDb says, must battle the “dark forces” closing in around him.
As his time ticking off, Father James wanders around the parish, mingles with his troubled villagers as he tries to ease their predicament. From individual to other, Calvary begins to elucidate the pivot of it; it goes beyond a classic whodunit style into a more elegant examination of ‘what good faith is’ among secular society. The film blends breath-taking dark humors reflected in dialogues between each character and serious questions about faith and doubt; therefore, it makes a smart black comedy that feels so ironical but true.
Needless to say, Calvary accentuates what comes to be Brendan Gleeson’s best performance. I always believe that Father James he portrays has already known who his would-be murderer is (How couldn’t he know, if he remembers voices of every member of his parish?); therefore, his Via Dolorosa becomes a real testament and how he questions his own courage to face his own Calvary makes it more predicament than a revelation. However, he convincingly portrays this crisis-hit Father and a father at once—he’s a Father to his troubled church as well as a father to a fragile daughter, Fiona (Kelly Reilly); a complex and rare situation which Gleeson Sr. denotes with styles.
Gleeson Sr.’s showmanship is built upon serious (or random) character studies on people around Father James. As he encounters a series of people ranging from a brittle butcher (Chris O’Dowd), a philosophical atheist doctor (Aidan Gillen), a lame priest (David Wilmot), a depressed accountant (Dylan Moran), and other villagers with scurrilous moral problems with their own agendas, Gleeson Sr.’s character bases his hesitation. Yet, his chemistry with Kelly Reilly, who portrays his daughter provides bolder background to his cause. The funny thing, Gleeson Sr. looks okay, even when he faces his own son, Domhnall, who portrays a cannibal—the father and son relationship is nine inches away, I think.
Director John Michael McDonagh deserves kudos for his thorough, well-crafted script that might be his best so far. I never know much about his work, but given the talkie The Guard and his older brother, Michael’s Seven Psychopaths, Calvary is an answer. Set as the second film to the so-called “The Glorified Suicide” trilogy by John Michael, Calvary is an improvement to The Guard. It serves comedy but never it goes lame; although the second act of this film is a little underwhelming, the whole film is a structured study of faith.
Drama Written and Directed by: John Michael McDonagh Running Time: 100 mins Starred by: Brendan Gleeson, Aidan Gillen, Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd, Domhnall Gleeson