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 (email@example.com)
In the final scene, Brendan Gleeson's character says he regrets never having finished Moby-Dick. In the movie "In the Heart of the Sea" he plays the role of Thomas Nickerson, a cabin boy who survived whaleship Essex that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick. See more »
"It's just you have no integrity. That's the worst thing I could say about anybody." Father James Lavelle (Brendan Glesson)
Child abuse and the Catholic Church are synonymous these days, but the depiction of that global tragedy has been spotty until now. Calvary, a subtly powerful independent film starring Brendan Gleeson as Pastor James Lavelle in a small Irish town, has the horror of abuse mitigated by an Agatha Christie-like thriller premise, an effective distraction that allows us to ramble around meeting parishioners, one of whom is the man who vowed in the confessional he'd murder Fr. James in a week. That week turns out to be, as one critic describes it, a Stations-of-the- Cross endurance run.
The would-be assassin was abused as a child, carrying with him the bitterness of the experience and the murderous rage for revenge. Yet, Calvary is more than a quiet screed against the neglect of the Church; it is also about a hamlet that harbors miscreants in other abuses: Writer/director John Michael McDonagh (whose brother, Martin, helmed another Irish classic, In Bruges), assembles corrupt bankers, wife beaters, cynics, adulterers—I may have forgotten some sins, but you get the idea.
Father James deals with the sinners in a calm, knowing way that evidences a man who has lost enough in life to be empathetic, an effective counselor who tells it like it is. Helping relay the sense of isolation and majesty of the town are Mark Gerahty's moderately vivid interiors and cinematographer Larry Smith's grand exteriors with the right mixture of ominous bluffs and lush countryside.
This naturalism is not to say that Fr. James is a bad or weak man—it's a backdrop that highlights his essential innocence, almost to naiveté. At least he is good, compared to the sinning priests who people our headlines today. He also reflects the growing awareness in all of us Catholics that the Church is in part corrupt.
Fr. James' faith is tested, as is ours, when he experiences his effect on the parishioners he visits in maybe his last week. All are not your standard sinners, however, for his altar boy, Michael (Micheal Og Lane) evidences an understanding of life's ironies better than most adults. The scenes between Michael and Fr. James are some of the best because of the quick-witted repartee reminiscent of screwball comedy.
Yes, Calvary, rooted in Christ's sacrifice, can be humorous, and depending on your sense of humor, hilarious.
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