Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Running Time: 100 mins
Calvary is an Irish film about an innocent local Catholic priest who, after being told he is going to be shot in 8 days, continues with his work while having to battle against dark forces closing in on him.
This film works exceptionally well. It’s not a roaring comedy, nor is it an unbelievably heavy-going drama, however it manages to combine a simple and jocular nature with what is, at times, a hugely hard-hitting story that nearly left me in tears.
One thing I found particularly interesting about this film was how it managed to talk about the church’s role in modern Irish society in both a satirical way, but also not aggressive. As well as showing the benefits of the Catholic Church, as shown by the fact that the priest in this story is always consoling or giving solace to someone, but also shows that Catholicism is so powerful in Ireland, it can be forcing people into the faith, a great hypocrisy, which can lead to extremist outbursts like the events shown in this film.
In terms of what you get on screen, everything was fantastically well-directed, well-written and well-acted. The cinematography, for instance, was unbelievably good. It manages to bring in the serenity of the setting of the Irish countryside, reflecting the peaceful nature of the priesthood, while also showing a consistently dark and ominous atmosphere that helps to build tension, as well as reflect the ever-worsening nature of the situation of this story.
And with that very deep and heavy atmosphere, it may seem as if this film is just a dark portrayal of a priest’s demise, however the comedic aspects to this film really shine through to make the experience just that little bit easier.
Just after a pretty ominous opening scene, the film spends about half an hour developing the characters, mainly the central priest, and this is where you get the majority of the jokes, with just a little bit of either banter or complete farce between the various characters.
But apart from the little jokes all around there, which are definitely funny, that’s it for your comedy. Throughout the establishing phase of the film, there’s still a very uneasy atmosphere, as you see the priest coming to terms with the fact that one of his neighbours is plotting to kill him.
Here, you get some sort of reverse whodunnit. As he makes his way around the parish, and you meet all of the different Agatha Christie-like suspects, it becomes quite tense, as you do begin to suspect various people of the plot to kill him, however, it’s not an overwhelming mystery that leaves you unable to focus on the rest of the film, but it’s there in the back of you mind making you feel just that little bit more tense.
However, with all of the small details and feelings early on in the film, the story finishes with one of the most impacting and hard-hitting endings I’ve ever seen, which left me so very close to bursting into tears.
Overall, this gets an 8.5, because it’s not only a cleverly written and directed film, but it also encompasses various other aspects that make it original, thrilling, and hugely hard-hitting.