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Watched this at Sundance Festival. Brilliant film. Some of the dialog
is a bit lost on US audience but still some hilarious lines. This is
much darker than The Guard and In Bruges (I know it's a different
writer/director) but very similar humor. But this has some very
powerful scenes (particularly the one with the lady who loses her
husband). It also tackles some serious questions on the church and
priesthood after the scandals around the world; really makes you think
about the plight of decent priests. Gleeson pulls off the part of
innocent priest paying for the sins of others excellently.
The music is amazing throughout. Also the scenery is incredible - made me miss home!
Excellent performances by Pat Short and Dylan Moran. Brendan Gleeson is just Brendan Gleeson, my favorite Irish actor (after Daniel Day Lewis of course)
This is well worth seeing. If your a fan of the McDonaghs stuff you'll love this. And what a great ending!
At the end of the film I reflected that this was a far bigger film that
I had been expecting. The issues explored in the film really do come
together at the end. The credits roll silently and I noticed that the
full cinema was very quiet and remained so for a much longer time than
The problems in the Catholic church have had repercussions and this parish in Sligo is losing its faith. This loss of faith is portrayed very vividly, it is expressed more strongly than in reality I think.
The film revolves around the character of Father James Lavelle played powerfully by Brendan Gleeson. As Father James visits his parishioners there is much humour, often quite dark. The script has many choice lines. A man arrives to give a lift to a female parishioner who has been sexually promiscuous and she says "here is my ride".
Father James Lavelle is a likable priest, grappling with applying the church's teachings in the modern world. It is a thankless task and always his objective is undermined by the failures of the church itself. Father James's character is contrasted with that of a younger priest he shares the parish with (David Wilmot). The younger priest is very much part of the institution of the church and his loyal naïvety is humorous and infuriating.
Father James' life is threatened at the beginning, but this film is not a detective story, it is not Father Brown. Father James knows who threatened him but we the audience are not let in on the secret. The logic behind the threat is described ingeniously as events in the film come to a head at the end.
Having seen all the Oscar nominees in early 2014, I would have to say this is better than any of them. It might be a controversial thing to say to all the film techies who get very involved in analysing dialogue and the like but as a snap shot of Ireland in 2014, it's hard to think of how this movie could be bettered. Morally bankrupt, cynical, howling at the moon and everyone looking to blame someone else for their woes. And of course sitting right in the middle of this is the Catholic Church and all the scandals it was involved with. However rather than making the centre character the inevitable bad guy, we get a real man who has lived life, knows pain, has flaws but is a shining light of integrity, morality and compassion. Brendan Glesson is fabulous in his portrayal of Fr James who is asked to make the ultimate sacrifice as the good man laying down his life for the sins of others. The rest of the cast are also excellent and whilst it is a tad unrealistic that so many odd balls and "characters' all live in one small town, it is clear that they are representative of the vast array of disaffected folk living in Ireland today. The reference to Fr James' fellow priest having the character of an insurance company accountant was however a little to close for comfort! All in all a great movie of its time with strong performances and a great story. Irish film at its very best. Well done to everyone involved.
A timely title for Holy Week. Father James (Brendan Gleeson), a village
priest in a coastal village in Ireland, is told in the confessional
that one of his parishioners is going to kill him. The man was abused
by a priest for five years as a child; that priest has died, but
killing the innocent Father James will be revenge for the other
priests's abuse of an innocent boy.
A challenging set-up for a movie, especially one which sells itself as a comedy - albeit a very dark comedy. With Father James we meet most of the locals, a sinful lot for such a small village. The butcher who beats his two-timing wife; the aggressive local publican; the cynical doctor; the alcoholic landowner; the police inspector with a taste for rent-boys; an ancient exiled American writer (M. Emmet Walsh).
Having been married (and widowed) before he answered the Call, Father James has an unhappy daughter (Kelly Reilly) down from the big city, her wrists bandaged from a suicide attempt. A week after the woeful NOAH, I half expected a Flood to overwhelm the village, full as it was of folk sliding into wickedness. The central mystery of which of them has threatened the priest is a bit of a cheat, since surely he would have recognised the voice in the confessional.
The dark mountains and pounding seas which sandwich the village are as atmospherically filmed as they were in David Lean's RYAN'S DAUGHTER, and a fine score boosts the film's seesaw moves between comedy and tragedy. The script is clumsy in parts, but the actors carry us over the bumps. Brendan Gleeson is on splendid form (I wish he'd played Noah last week!) and the rest of the cast turn in believable performances. There is no comedy in the bleak finale. This is a dark and disturbing low-budget movie which, like PHILOMENA, will linger in the mind long after multi-million-dollar blockbusters have faded into a CGI haze.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As an Irish viewer, I felt a certain trepidation as I walked into my
local cinema today that Calvary would be the step too far for Irish
film. I assumed that the seemingly endless list of well known Irish
actors that John Michael McDonagh's latest film boasted could well be
more of a burden than a blessing. I feared that I was about to watch a
lackluster production which relied solely on its cast's reputation to
lull the audience into a sense of comfort in the familiar. Thankfully,
I couldn't have been further from the truth.
The film's opening line immediately removes any inkling that this is going to be a happy-go-lucky Irish gagfest. The few stifled laughs were short lived as the seriousness of "I was seven when I first tasted semen" hit home. The topic of the child sex abuse scandal of the Catholic church is dealt with head on and shamelessly. McDonagh excellently portrays the changing religious outlook of a rural community due to the shocking revelations about their once sacred church and the troubles of a fundamentally good priest dealing with the backlash to these revelations.
The graceful aerial shots of rural Sligo's scenery pairs expertly with the soundtrack in setting the ideal background for an equally graceful screenplay. Brendan Gleeson gives arguably the performance of his career as Father James Lavelle, while Aiden Gillen, Dylan Moran and Chris O' Dowd all give performances warranting the same accolade.
Calvary is a beautifully subtle social commentary on the state of the Irish psyche today and a huge step up from McDonagh's excellent previous work "The Guard". There are some genuine belly laughs to be found in this movie but also some genuine soul searching questions left in your mind after it ends. As the final credits rolled silently and the audience of my local cinema sat completely still for what felt like an age, all my previous doubts about this film were long behind me and my only question was "when can I see it again?"
Calvary is one of the best dark comedy films I have ever had the
pleasure to see. I love Irish films and I am a fan of Brendan Gleeson,
so I knew this couldn't go wrong, and it really delivered. The
supporting cast were all great, with eccentric, hilarious, and steely
types, all characters in this film were a pleasure to watch. The
shining star of this is clearly Gleeson, and I'd go as far as to say
that this is the best performance of his career.
The beautiful scenery makes Calvary a feast for the eyes, and while at times shocking, but made up for with ensuing hilarity, Calvary knows what it is and has its heart, making it a treat to see. Every piece of dialogue in the film carries undeniably valid points and discussions that simply makes sense, and I couldn't recommend it much more.
I thought this was an imaginative story with some interesting insights on how a priest has to deal with people who do not share his beliefs, ethics and standards. Rather uncomfortable with the concept that someone would kill an innocent person in revenge. The forgiveness theme was inspiring and was in contrast with the primary issue. Being set in Ireland made the film so much more down to earth than if it had been produced in Hollywood and set in the US. The acting was great even if some of the dialogue was at times too glib for the characters involved. Nevertheless a thoroughly provocative thriller. I look forward to seeing more from this team.
Brendan Gleeson, for me, is an excellent actor; he always has such
sincerity in his performances(with the exception of "Turbulence"). And
like in "The Guard" it was great to see him as the lead role again.
The story is a very unique one and although the film is full of dark comedy and wit, there are genuine moments of travesty and turmoil that slip in here and there and give the film much more depth. Topics are touched upon that may not be greeted well amongst some people; but these topics where based on truth, so there should be no cause to complain.
Every actor brings something to the table with their characters. Brendan Gleeson is definitely the star of the show as Father James Lavelle, he delivers on so many levels; it's like acting just comes completely natural to him. Dylan Moran plays Michael in what is almost a tip of the hat to Dougal from "Father Ted". Chris O'Dowd is his usual quirky self as Jack, yet shows a lot more emotion than in any of his previous roles. Kelly Reilly who plays Father Leville's daughter Fiona, gels really well with Gleeson. One moment that was very sentimental was the scene between real life father and son. As in one scene Father Leville comes face to face with convicted serial killer Freddie Joyce (Domhnall Gleeson). Playing complete polar opposites it was a nice touch and i'm sure was a nice moment for both.
With all the events that happen in the period of the film, i think it gives a great insight to what life as a priest may be like. The persistent problems to which people seek the answer from you. The grief you may take, the accusations, the expectation. The dedication and restraint is commendable. Is it my cup of tea? No. Not in a billion years, but i'm an atheist, so wouldn't be much help.
A very good film which gives you plenty of comedy and its fair share of touching moments.
I'm not really a fan of "The Guard". It was certainly entertaining and reasonably funny but it was also deeply derivative; it often felt like something John Michael McDonagh's more talented brother Martin might have thrown out as not quite up to the mark. "Calvary", McDonagh's new film, is a considerable improvement, if again not wholly successful. For a start, it doesn't feel remotely 'realistic' but then, I hear you ask, why should it be. Realism is not necessarily a prerequisite for a successful drama but this film feels 'scripted', full of stock characters teetering, and sometimes falling over, into cliché. What McDonagh has given us here isn't so much a realistic drama but a parable, a passion play set over the course of a week in which a kind of Christ figure, (in this case, a 'good' priest), waits for his own Calvary which he knows is coming. It begins in the confessional when someone we don't see tells the priest, (Brendan Gleeson), that he will kill him a week on Sunday. The would-be murderer's reason for this is two-fold; as a child he was repeatedly raped by a priest now dead and secondly, why kill a bad priest? Isn't it a much greater affront to an uncaring God to kill a good priest, a man who is totally innocent? McDonagh is reputed to have said that this is his 'Bresson' film and yes, there is something Bressonian about the hell that Gleeson is living in, for here is a rural Irish community that could have come out of Dante and have been drawn by Bruegel. There are drug addicts, a rent boy, adulterers, disbelievers, even a child murderer, all well played but none particularly feasible, (it's hard to accept that a policeman who openly avails himself of the services of a gay rent boy would slap a priest in the pub or that a priest would start firing a gun around a bar and then get beaten up by the barman). If you can't believe in the characters then it is hard to accept the initial premiss. Still, if this film is something of a failure it's an honest and an ambitious failure. The last ten minutes or so are quite devastating and Gleeson, as always, is superb. (Stand-outs in the supporting cast include Chris O'Dowd's cynical wife-beating butcher and Dylan Moran's drunken land-owner). As to who the potential killer is, McDonagh keeps us guessing to the end, throwing in the customary red-herrings to side- track us on the way. It's a film I believe has been overpraised and yet there isn't much else like it out there at the moment. See it and judge for yourselves.
John Michael McDonagh is a skilled writer/director whose career has somewhat been overshadowed by his brother Martin. While Martin's canon features belters like In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, John Michael's debut with The Guard seemed like a pale imitation; his latest film, Calvary features the same star as The Guard in Brendan Gleeson, and attempts the same mix of blackly comic patter, violent incident and philosophical ruminations that has been the hallmark of the brothers' work. In Calvary, Gleeson plays Father James, an easy-going, likable priest who is given a death sentence in the confessional by an unseen voice in his confessional. James has a week to get himself together, with a rendezvous with his assassin planned for a lonely beach on the following Sunday. James is split between preparing for a struggle (buying a gun and bullets) and making his peace with the world, notably reconciliation with his daughter (Kelly Reilly). But there's also the tricky business of working out who his potential assassin might be; the voice claimed to belong to a man abused by priests, and James sets out to interview a number of potential candidates, including Dylan Moran, Chris O'Dowd and Aiden Gillen, all of whom have potential motives McDonagh deserves some credit for tackling issues to do with hidden abuse by the church head on; a telling scene sees Father James chatting to a little girl, only for her suspicious father to pull up in a car and whisk her away. The role of the church in a small community is under examination, and McDonagh pits Father James's likability and affable nature against local distrust of the church. As with the guard, Gleeson is a great center for a film like this, and his performance holds Calvary together. Unfortunately, McDonagh does not have his brother's gift of the gab when it comes to dialogue. Knowing dialogue (That's a great opening line,' "what a third act revelation') suggests that Father James has been swallowing screen writing manuals, or that McDonagh can't resist showing off. The scenes with James's daughter are heavy-handed when they need to be caustic, and there's too much knockabout whimsy, albeit peppered with swearing. A bleak ending sits uneasily with the whimsy; whereas Martin is deft in his gear-changes, John Michael's control of the dialogue is clumsy and childish in comparison. Calvary is a thematically interesting and modern film, but it fails to hit the targets it aims for. The Film Authority.
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