Film Review – Calvary (2014)

Calvary - post

Title – Calvary (2014)

Director – John Michael McDonagh (The Guard)

Cast – Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aiden Gillin, Dylan Moran, M. Emmet Walsh, Domhnall Gleeson, Orla O’Rourke

Plot – Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) is threatened by a member of his small town Irish congregation in the confessional booth, with the attacker giving him 7 days until he will murder him. Father Lavelle must try and go about his daily business as this weight, plus increasingly threatening acts are heaped upon him, culminating in a trying of his faith like no other.

“It’s just you have no integrity. That’s the worst thing I could say about anybody”

Review by Eddie on 16/07/2014

Calvary is a film that is impossible to pigeonhole into a defining category, for John Michael McDonagh’s second feature length film following on from his overrated yet at times promising debut The Guard is at times darkly funny, hauntingly scary, touchingly real in its look at family and in many respects heart pounding thrilling. Calvary is a unique Irish film that is therefore a must see.

Once again teaming up with usual side player Brendan Gleeson, McDonagh and his acting muse have created one of the year’s most memorable and layered characters that if justice was indeed served would be a character leading Gleeson to awards circuits the world over. Gleeson’s Father James Lavelle is a priest so full of history and thought that there would be enough within his own story arc to fill countless films. A man previously prone to the drink and the fight, Father Lavelle is a man not only learning to deal with his faith, but learning to deal with the death of his wife, his estranged daughter and worst of all a township in which the Churches’ ever growing public backlash is in full effect, to the point of his very life being threatened by a person in his church confessional, setting in forward motion a story once more layered with social, political and spiritual commentary.

McDonagh’s top notch script features a huge collection of well written and relatable characters all played by a cast that is clearly relishing a chance to work their magic on some very ripe material. From usual funny men Chris O’Dowd as local butcher Jack Brennan and Dylan Moran as unpredictable businessman Michael Fitzgerald through to everyone’s favourite Game of Thrones creep (and not to forget favourite ever fictional Mayor, Thomas Carcetti) Aiden Gillin as non-believing and threatening doctor Frank Harte, Calvary is full to the brim with talent and scenes that will linger long in the memory, with a visit to prison by Father Lavelle (in an exchange that features Gleeson’s real life son Domhnall) and a particularly spiteful speech by Dr. Harte the cream of the crop here. McDonagh really grasps the overall feeling of the country of Ireland within these players, yet the films largest flaws are also held within the script that contains too many elements of certain genres and in the end fails at mastering completely a specific tone. Up for argument it is however possible that the film would’ve made more impact/resonated with more viewers had it concentrated its efforts more as a straight drama or straight up black comedy.

Calvary certainly has a lot to say about a huge range of topics, none more so than the feelings towards the Catholic Church in the world today. Where once a priest walking alongside a little girl would not have garnered a second glance, here in Calvary’s world creates a moment of tension and unease, an ominous feeling from all. This world of Calvary may not always be easy to live in but thanks to an award worthy turn by Gleeson and many of his supports and some fine scripting and directing work by the talented McDonagh, Calvary despite not being for everyone is one of the year’s most memorable and at times touching films that defies being compared to any film you’ve yet seen.

4 mistreated paintings out of 5

16 responses to “Film Review – Calvary (2014)

  1. Brendan Gleeson is a great actor. He brought his best to 28 Days Later and to this film. He shows his range, at least. He seems very likable.

    • Very true mate, the whole time it kept you on edge as you were trying to figure out who was up to what and Gleeson is just ace in every role he plays in particular the leads he gets.

  2. Pingback: Film Review - Calvary (2014) | Christians Anonymous·

  3. I just saw Calvary last night at a screening and Gleeson and McDonagh were there for questions afterwards. They both had a lot to say about the Catholic Church in Ireland which was very interesting, to say the least. I very much agree with your review. Everyone in the film was very good, but Gleeson was in a class by himself. I think the movie opens in DC in a week or two.

    • Wow Joan that is a great experience for you! I would love to hear them speak more in depth about this little gem and all it’s hidden messages/meanings. Hoping it can find a good audience over there in the USA it deserves to get some recognition in a monies and awards sense.

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