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A can of worms is opened within the Irish Catholic Church following two controversial incidents, the suicide of Frank Sweeney, a parish priest and the expulsion of Daniel McLaughlin, a young trainee priest from a nearby seminary, on the grounds that he was open to the sexual advances of a male colleague. A local journalist, David Foley, is convinced that Sweeney's death and Daniel's expulsion are linked. Desperate to clear his good name and be re-instated, Daniel agrees to talk to Foley. As the story gathers momentum, the Church closes ranks. Written by
A Very Fine, Fascinating Film That Seems to be Unfinished
CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE is a moody, dark, probing inquiry into the concept of celibacy of priests in the Catholic Church in Ireland and all the way to the Vatican. The concept, story and script by Writer/Director John Deery are tight, arrow sharp in aim, but ultimately unresolved issues cloud the success of what could have been a pungent movie.
Set in a seminary in Ireland for preparing young men for the priesthood, we are introduced to some warmly human characters such as Daniel McLaughlin (Jonathan Forbes), a squeaky clean lad who gave up a girlfriend Sinead (Catherine Walker) to follow his (and his family's) life ambition to become a priest. Naive, warm, loving, athletic and bright, he is the seminary poster boy - until one evening after hours he innocently visits a fellow seminarian's room and is the focus of seduction by the student who kindly says 'we're all only human and have our needs'. Daniel gently declines the advances, leaves the student's room but is observed by an old priest with demons of his own. The priest reports the incident and Daniel is abruptly thrown out of the seminary by the evil Rector Cathal (Sean McGinley) for being homosexual
a charge that couldn't be farther from the truth.
At the same time in another part of the seminary the fine Father Sweeney dresses in all his priestly regalia and commits suicide is a gruesome way. His suicide is threatening to the staff of the seminary and a cover-up is immediately put in place. It seems Father Sweeney some four years ago had stirred controversy in the Vatican by publicly exposing his HIV status, alerting the Church and the world that HIV was rampant in the world wide Church. His partner left the priesthood, disillusioned, but following FR Sweeney to the seminary in Ireland.
An earnest reporter David Foley (Jason Barry) begins the investigation of the suicide and in doing so finds the reason for Daniel's expulsion as well as the myriad dark secrets being covered by the Church - all to do with the concept of celibacy and the inevitable sequelae of sensual deprivation on priests. One Father Jack Dowling (Hugh Bonneville) supports David and Daniel and is disenchanted with the behavior of the Church against its own priests. Then, without resolving any of these fascinating strings of thought the movie ends, leaving many questions unanswered - as though there are no answers.
The acting is uniformly strong (including the likes of Brenda Fricker as Daniel's mother et al), for once giving a spectrum of the priesthood that is not favoring bad or good. These characters are men with convictions and none can be faulted for their stances. The setting in Ireland is magnificently captured by cinematographer Jason Lehel, and Francis Haines and Stephen W. Parsons provide a hauntingly beautiful musical score. As far as it takes us this is a fine film. Perhaps Deery is planning Part II to finish this story! Grady Harp
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