Jun 222014


Brendan Gleeson stars as a priest who is told by a man during confession that he is going to murder him. Not straight away, but Sunday week. He’ll give the priest time to get his affairs in order first. My review of Calvary after the jump.

Who is the mystery person who threatens murder during confession? It’s not exactly the way that confessions normally run. He isn’t seeking forgiveness, he is seeking retribution. Will the priest confront the man who wants to murder him before Sunday week, or will everyone in the messed up village appear to harbour something dark, something which could potentially make them capable of murder? Calvary is a rather unique possible murder mystery.

Deliciously dark with a fantastic mix of drama and comedy, Calvary‘s screenplay is incredibly sharp. John Michael McDonagh has created an intense, beautiful film with Calvary. He has a unique voice which blends comedy with tragedy and sets it in a topical Irish context. Forgiveness is an underrated virtue but it’s an important theme in the film. It’s weaved into the parishioner’s insults and their monologues filled with regret. This is a sad village filled with secrets and with pain. This darkness is amplified by the unforgiving landscape in which it is located – something which surely affects the locals. I can’t imagine a small town in warm & lush green setting having stories as dark as this.

Gleeson’s softly spoken priest is such an enduring character. He clearly isn’t perfect, but he’s trying his best to be a good person and a good priest. His flaws are his strengths and they’re what allows him to relate with the villagers on some level. Gleeson’s performance here is quite incredible, softly spoken but with an undeniable presence on-screen. His expressive face and sad eyes tell a hundred stories in every withering glance. Supporting performances are also excellent, with Dylan Moran particularly impressive as a wealthy, eccentric village-dweller.

John Michael McDonagh and Brendan Gleeson are two for two with The Guard and Calvary. McDonagh’s dark musings on Ireland are bought to life by Gleeson, a man who says so much without uttering a word. He has the type of presence which cannot be learnt – it is something powerful which is a part of him. Don’t go into Calvary expecting a comedy. Rather, expect a moving human drama and you’ll be surprised by the moments of truly black comedy which appear throughout.


By Sam McCosh


The Facts

Director: John Michael McDonagh
Writer(s): John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Dylan Moran
Runtime: 100 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: July 3, 2014