Father James is a small-town priest in Ireland whose Sunday confessionals suddenly include a threat to kill him in a week's time as a matter of principle. Deeply troubled and conflicted about how to respond, Father James tries to go on with his calling through that week. However, that proves impossible as he is confronted with a troubling variety of spiritual challenges from both his estranged daughter and his own parishioners. In those dispiriting struggles, Father James' life begins to fall apart as time runs out towards a confrontation that seems to crystallize his values and what he wants his life to be. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
New World in the Morning
Written and Performed by Roger Whittaker
Published by Croma Music (ASCAP) & Universal Music Publishing MGB Ltd
Courtesy of Polydor UK Ltd
Under License from Universal Music Operations Ltd See more »
Beautifully Shot and Acted Film about Loneliness, Religion and Death
Set over a period of seven days (the time it took for God to create the world), CALVARY can be viewed on one level as a detective story, as we try to discover the identity of the man who vows to kill the Priest (Brendan Gleeson) in revenge for the man's abuse during his childhood by another member of the Catholic Church. There are two or three likely suspects, including rich dilettante Michael Fitzgerald (Dylan Moran), aggressive bartender Brendan Lynch (Pat Shortt), and a police inspector (Gary Lydon) with more than a passing disrespect for his fellow officers. At the end the person's identity is revealed in a climactic sequence taking place on a deserted beach.
At a deeper level, however, the film invites us to speculate on the nature of "good," and whether it has any place in today's overtly secular world. The Priest has taken up his vocation in later life, given up alcohol, and dedicates himself to helping members of the small Sligo community he inhabits. Some of its members actively solicit his advice, such as prisoner Freddie Joyce (played by Gleeson's real-life son Domhnall; others, such as butcher's wife Veronica (Orla O'Rourke) believe themselves to be irredeemable, and take a savage pleasure in telling the Priest. The Priest learns to take such criticisms on the chin, but the knowledge that he might be plowing a lonely moral furrow renders him an isolated person: even in the local bar (where he goes for company), he cuts a lonely figure, sitting on his own and largely ignored by his fellow-villagers.
Of perhaps more significance, however, is writer/ director John Michael McDonagh's handling of the relationship between the Priest and his daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly). Initially it seems as if the Priest can handle Fiona's emotional difficulties, as he tries to help her negotiate a botched attempt at suicide. As the action unfolds, however, we understand that the Priest has himself been at least partially responsible for his daughter's problems; following his wife's death, he entered the Church without really considering the effect his decision might have on Fiona's future. The two forgive each other, but McDonough shoots the scene as a series of slow shot/ reverse shots, suggesting some kind of lingering alienation between the two. They subsequently communicate with one another by telephone only: the Priest stands on the beach while Fiona speaks from a Thameside café; neither of them really able to relate to one another.
While McDonagh makes several references to the seamier side of the Catholic Church - notably its history of child abuse - he is more interested in exploring how such incidents prejudice people's views. The Priest meets a young girl (Annabel Sweeney) and jokes with her as they both walk down a lonely country road; their conversation is interrupted by her furious father (Declan Conlon) who abuses the Priest and bundles the girl into his car. McDonagh tracks backwards, showing the girl imprisoned behind the car windows, while the Priest stares helplessly at her. Both are left isolated, the innocent victims of hearsay and rumor.
Beautifully shot in the wilds of Sligo in the Irish Republic, CALVARY is first and foremost a study in isolation; the customers standing waiting for something to happen in the bar; the lonely parishioner seeking counsel from the Priest in a deserted church; and the Priest and Fiona walking the beach and/or the rocky seaside landscapes. The film ends with a series of close-ups of landscape views, including a stone which according to local myth has the power to kill people. Perhaps the characters aren't as free to choose their destinies as they they think they are - especially members of the Church. God may direct them, but there could be other forces restricting their actions.
The film is an absolute gem - beautifully acted and photographed, with a soundtrack comprising a series of songs that underline the film's contrasting moods (I especially liked the choice of Roger Whittaker's "New World in the Morning," and Flanagan and Allen's wartime classic "Run, Rabbit Run."
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