‘Calvary’: It’s a sin to skip this dark whodunit

“Calvary” (2014) – Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a good and decent priest, but despite his earnest nature, he’s unfortunately living under extreme duress in a small seaside Irish community.  Although scenic beauty surrounds him at every winding, country-road turn, many of the townspeople spew ugly hostility.  The biggest danger, however, comes from a man who enters his confessional and threatens to kill him in one week’s time.  Writer/director John Michael McDonagh weaves a dark whodunit that really plays like an old western, as it methodically marches towards Father James’ date with (his possible) destiny.

Father James (Brendan Gleeson)

Although released in 2014, “Calvary” was filmed in 2012 and therefore, made during – arguably – the lowest opinion of the Catholic Church – in recent memory – due to the well-documented sex abuse crisis.  The unpopular Pope Benedict was still in power, so disdain for the institution weighs heavily on the narrative.  It dominates it, as the reflection of the times – in a way – reverses on-screen roles.  The aforementioned townsfolk lost faith and lost their moral direction, while Father James stands tall with altruism and grace. 

Father James (Gleeson) and Dr. Frank Harte (Aiden Gillen)

The notable supporting actors – including Aidan Gillen, Chris O’Dowd, and M. Emmet Walsh (yes, that M. Emmet Walsh) – stand tall too and cradle Gleeson’s deep, introspective performance, and Kelly Reilly especially leaves a lasting mark as Father James’ daughter in one of the very best films of 2014. 

 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Written and directed by: John Michael McDonagh

Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Aiden Gillen, Chris O’Dowd, and M. Emmet Walsh

Runtime: 102 minutes

Rated: R

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