Calvary (2014)

Calvary
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Writer: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Brendan GleesonChris O’DowdKelly ReillyAidan GillenDylan MoranIsaach De BankoléMarie-Josée CrozeM. Emmet WalshDomhnall GleesonOrla O’Rourke
Part of: Viennale
[Review by cornholio.]

Plot:
In the confession stand, Father James (Brendan Gleeson) hears from one of his parish that they were abused by another priest as a child and that they decided to kill Father James for it on Sunday. To kill an innocent to make more of a dent. So James has a week to put his things in order and try to figure out who confessed and see if he can’t convince him otherwise.

Calvary was hard to take, but in the best way. It was thoughtful, smart and opinionated; and had an absolutely stellar cast.

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Usually when you get a film about the church, you either get complete damnation of the corruption that ruins all of catholicism or you get saintly priests that can do no wrong and try everything for the best thing in life – the catholic church. Of course, there’s also the fucked up priest who is the only one worth a damn in the entire institution. Calvary refrains from all of those stereotypes. Father James is pretty much the perfect priest – but in a realistic way. He tries his best to take care of his parish, even when they don’t want to be taken care of. But he’s not flawless, far from it.

And that is also the way the church is portrayed, with a plethora of nuances that I did not expect. There are good priests and bad priests, but mostly there are a whole lot of issues that need to be addressed and examined by the church itself if it wants to be worth something. And Calvary approaches not only child abuse, but among other things also racism and colonialism. Intelligent discussion of those topics are rare, especially within a church context, so that was pretty amazing. While they frankly broach these issues, there is also a focus on the positive sides that faith brings into people’s lives, so that was also really cool. I’m not religious myself, but I can recognize that it is very positive for many people without immediately descending into religious fervor, mania and bigotry.

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It’s pretty obvious that Calvary is a serious movie and one that will keep you thinking for a while. But in between it’s also very funny and entertaining. The cast is amazing (I was pleasantly surprised by about half the people that were in it, since I hadn’t read the cast list beforehand. I would like more surprises like this) and do their reputations complete justice. (I also liked that we got Domnhall Gleeson and Brendan Gleeson in the same film, even if for only a – admittedly great – scene.)

In the end, I had laughed and I had cried and I really felt that my life was a little richer for having seen the film. And how often can you really say that?

Brendan Gleeson and Chris O'Dowd in John Michael McDonagh's Calvary.Summarizing: Wonderful.

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