Calvary (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Rated R for sexual references, language, brief strong violence and some drug use.
Starring Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, Isaach de Bankolé, M. Emmet Walsh, Marie-Josée Croze, Domhnall Gleeson, David Wilmot, Pat Shortt, Gary Lydon, Killian Scott, Orla O'Rourke, Owen Sharp, David McSavage.
Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh.
If you don’t know who Brendan Gleeson is, here’s a hint: He played “Mad-Eye Moody” in the Harry Potter film series. Here’s another hint: He’s probably one of the greatest actors you’ve never heard of. He’s also the star of Calvary, a new film from writer/director John Michael McDonagh.
Calvary is the story of a Catholic priest who hears a confession from a man who plans to shoot and kill the clergyman. The man confesses that as a child, he suffered years of sexual abuse by another priest – and that he’s going to shoot and kill Father James (Gleeson) in one week. The mysterious man hopes his planned murder will bring attention to the problem of clergy abuse by killing an innocent priest.
Father James, while troubled about the threat, continues his service as a man of the cloth, attending to the needs of parish members and agnostics in the region. In the middle of his struggle to come to terms with the death threat, his daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly) comes to stay with him after a failed suicide attempt (James joined the clergy after the death of his wife years before). Father James interacts with believers and non-believers, many of them bitter about their own troubles and some of them antagonistic toward their local clergy.
As the week draws to a close, Father James wrestles with his own demons and prepares for the worst on Sunday.
Calvary is a very dark and depressing film, albeit a great film with another outstanding performance from Gleeson. It’s not the first Gleeson/McDonagh collaboration. In 2011, the pair teamed to make The Guard, in which Gleeson turned in the best performance of his career – up to that point. It was a shame he wasn’t even nominated for a 2011 Oscar, and here’s hoping he can clear the field in this year’s post-season awards for his Calvary performance. The rest of the cast is top notch, including Reilly, M. Emmett Walsh, Aidan Gillen and Gleeson’s own son Domnhall, who makes a brief cameo as convicted serial killer.
The subject matter and conclusion should make Calvary a little too dark for many, but the film’s premise is intriguing; offering kind of a murder mystery “in advance,” as audience members try to figure out who plans to “do it,” rather than “whodunit” (no spoilers here).