Cert: 15 Runtime: 100 mins Director: John Michael McDonagh Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aiden Gillen and Dylan Moran
I think she’s bipolar, or lactose intolerant, one of the two
Calvary has been on my watch list for a few months, it has received a lot of positive feedback across the board. John Michael McDonagh came to my attention a few years back with The Guard. It was very whimsical and dark humoured, Calvary seemed the same from the trailer. Brendan Gleeson joins up with McDonagh again, so we are bound to have a lovely treat. So what is Calvary? In the confession box, a parishioner tells Father James (Brendan Gleeson) that he must die for the church’s sins. Consequently, the priest will be murdered in exactly seven days’ time. Unable to go to the police, James embarks upon an investigation that’s less whodunnit than ‘Who’ll do it?’ Despite the beauty of this rural parish on Ireland’s west coast, his flock are a sinful and small-minded bunch. Village butcher Jack Brennan (Chris O’Dowd) is suspected of beating his unfaithful wife. The doctor, Frank Harte (Aidan Gillen), is a depraved, cynical atheist. And filthy rich banker Michael Fitzgerald (Dylan Moran) is a drunken misanthrope whose loot has brought him little happiness.
McDonagh is already acclaimed for his razor sharp dialogue, yet he takes it up a notch here, coupling his witty banter with emotional beats that hit on a very deep level. Delving into themes of familial relationships, suicide and isolation, as well as focussing on the fallout of sexual abuse within the Church, this is not always an easy motion picture to watch, but thanks to its intelligence and poignancy it is utterly essential. A touching conversation between father and daughter (Gleeson and Kelly Reilly respectively) as they walk through a blowing field is perhaps one of the finest, most subtly affecting scenes of the year, and epitomises just how compelling this film is. As Father James Lavelle, Gleeson is in career-best form; his grounded turn is equal parts depressing, heart warming and humorous, creating a captivating performance that should be acknowledged when award season comes around. He’s given powerful support from an array of recognisable faces, including Reilly as his emotionally vulnerable daughter, M. Emmet Walsh as a reclusive author, Dylan Moran as an arrogant millionaire, Aidan Gillen as a twisted nurse and Chris O’Dowd as a going-nowhere man stuck in life. Set in the windswept, coastal outskirts of Ireland, McDonagh’s movie also looks remarkable, exploring a part of the world rarely glimpsed in cinema and all the more intimate for it. Impeccable, thought provoking, ground shattering.