Movie Reviews

Movie Review – Calvary


Brendan Gleeson is a national treasure. This much we already knew, and no one doubted his abilities on screen, but it is with the McDonagh brothers that the cinematic giant has finally found his best form. With In Bruges, The Guard and now Calvary, the pair have elicited a quiet grace and warm humour from Gleeson only touched upon to this point in his career. Calvary is a wonderful blend of wit, jet black comedy and cynicism, and Gleeson’s towering presence elevates it to one of the truly great Irish movies of our time.


Re-teaming with John Michael McDonagh after their critically acclaimed hit The Guard, Gleeson’s Father James is told by a mysterious figure one day during confession that he will be murdered in seven days time; executed for the sins of the church rather than any personal transgression. Father James has a week to get his affairs in order, and make peace with his predicament, while still finding the time to deliver countenance and a guiding voice to the locals of his parish.

Sharply written discussions of faith and doubt run deep through the narrative, along with a thread of moral inquisitiveness and more than a little cynicism that keeps Calvary grounded and eventually carries the film to a surprisingly powerful ending. The humour, as dark as it is, is spot on and the characters are a rogues gallery of modern rural Ireland, all instantly identifiable with and cast perfectly but there is only one start of the show.


Brendan Gleeson is magnificent as the beleaguered Father James. His character is forced to question a faith which has shaped his entire life and really examine whether or not he serves a purpose for his flock anymore and what relevance does religion have nowadays. He delivers a marvellous, quietly compelling performance; never overplaying the internal tension of the threat on his life or how he must struggle to rediscover his own purpose. It is without question Gleeson’s finest role, as poignant and soulful as anything he’s ever done.

Calvary is a cutting examination of religion in a world increasingly out-of-tune with, and without need for, the institution of the Catholic Church. It may not be for all audiences with it’s pitch-black tone and deliciously dark humour, but those willing to open themselves up to the narrative will discover a near flawless film that knows exactly the message it wants to convey and does so seemingly with ease. Calvary is nothing short of a masterpiece. Absolutely divine.


(Images courtesy IMDb, Collider, Empire) 


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