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Bleak and disturbing
davidgee16 April 2014
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.
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A strong Irish film with great performances
estebangonzalez1018 July 2014
¨ I've always felt there's something inherently psychopathic about joining the army in peace time.¨

Calvary is director, John Michael McDonagh's followup to 2011's The Guard which also happened to star Brendan Gleeson in the lead role. This time Gleeson plays a Catholic Priest named Father James who is threatened during a confession by someone who we don't get to see. This man claims to have been sexually molested by a Priest several times as a kid and although Father James is a good and decent Priest he must take the fall in order for a statement to be made. Father James is given one week (or so this man claims) before being killed on the following Sunday on the beach. The father is troubled by this threat but he must continue doing his parish work during the remaining course of the week. We follow him as he has some deep conversations with the different members of the small Irish town they live in. It's a very interesting premise that hooks you from the start and has you wondering which of all the troubled people in the town might be the one who has threatened this goodhearted Priest. However the film works just as fine without that premise because the interactions between these characters is the true center of the story. These are all broken men and women who the Father interacts with and most of the conversations are deep and spiritual. Calvary isn't a film about religion, but it does have some important things to say about faith and virtues. It is very well written by McDonagh and the screenplay is rich in dark comedy; perhaps one of the best things about this movie. This is a film that could be very easily adapted to a stage play because the written material is superb and carries the movie on its own. Calvary also benefits from the beautiful scenery of the Irish coast line and a wonderful supporting cast. This is a film that sticks with you and one I wouldn't mind watching again.

Brendan Gleeson is a fantastic actor and one wishes he continue to collaborate with director McDonagh. I remembered he also gave a fantastic performance in In Bruges, which ironically was written and directed by John McDonagh's brother. These guys are great writers and know how to include a lot of wit in their dialogues. The rest of the cast is fantastic as well. Kelly Reilly plays Fiona, Father James's daughter (I know you might be thinking what is a Priest doing with a daughter because I asked myself the same question, but we quickly find out that James was once married and when his wife died he became a Priest). She is going through some difficult times, and James is trying to help her find answers. Chris O'Dowd also gives a terrific performance as one of the members from the parish whose wife is having an affair with an African man, but he seems OK with this because he can finally enjoy his freedom. Aidan Gillen (from Game of Thrones) plays the Atheist doctor, while Emmet Walsh is an old writer who is well aware that he's approaching death. These are just some of the people that Father James deals with in his community and each interaction is very rich and profound. There is plenty of dark humor balanced with a great amount of spiritual questions. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the material was handled. I can't even remember when was the last time that a Priest was portrayed so well on screen. Calvary is a powerful film with great performances and some sharp writing, and that is why this is one of the must see films of 2014. All I know is that after watching this I was desperate to get my hands on The Guard which I haven't had a chance to see but definitely will now. I highly recommend Calvary.
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Priest faces his death better than others face life
maurice_yacowar19 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
In confessional, a parishioner tells Father James he will kill him in a fortnight because Father James is good man, an excellent priest,. His murder would be a shock to the church that countenanced the man's boyhood sexual abuse. Despite knowing who his threat is, Father James spends the time ministering to his parishioners — including his killer's domestic issues, preserving the sacred privacy of the confessional. He gets a gun but at the last minute throws it into the sea. He plans to escape to Dublin but changes his mind as he boards the plane. What prompts that change is seeing two airport employees idly chatting as they lean over a coffin. Inside is a good man who was killed in a car crash with drunken teenagers. Father James is strengthened by seeing the casual way in which that victimized innocence is treated. There is no respect there, no overall sense of holiness or decency, just two yobs leaning over a box. That revives Father James's conscience and he returns to face his fate. The dead man's wife is the only character here who has no crisis of faith. She knows her husband was a good man. Though in pain, she accepts his — what we would think is Absurd — random death. She appreciates the kindness the strangers have shown her. Serenely she is flying him home. Father James's daughter, who looks like her — thin, delicate, wan — grows through the film from her shaky recovery from a suicide attempt to her own serenity, when she goes to the prison to talk to her father's killer. As Father James told his daughter, the most undervalued virtue is forgiveness. After a broken romance caused her to despair, now her father's sacrifice brings her a surprising peace. She forgives the troubled killer and can then forgive herself the lesser failures she has magnified. So when Father James goes back to confront his killer he is performing his function. He learned that from the good man of abused acceptance in the coffin. In performing that role he — like Jesus — expiates the other's sin. He saves his killer's soul by exorcising the abused boy's rage and helplessness. For the killer to forgive his abuser, the church and ultimately himself for the murder, though, the butcher needs the model of the priest's daughter's forgiveness. That distinguishes this killer from the one Father James visits in prison, a cannibal who feels nothing. In contrast, with the exception of the new widow, every character suffers from the wealthy landowner's confessed "disassociation." The daughter is adrift, unmoored by the loss of her father to the priesthood after she lost her mother to a lingering death. The campy male prostitute constantly plays a gangster grotesque to avoid making any human connection. He's most comfortable crisply shooting pool. The landowner at one point takes down a treasured painting from his wall and urinates on it. Abandoned by his family and even his servant — to whom he later admits he never felt attached anyway — his wealth is meaningless. His 100,000 Euro check to the church means nothing to him, neither as gesture nor as value.The painting is Holbein's The Ambassadors, which famously shows two wealthy overdressed men, a display of secular opulence, with in the foreground an anamorphic image of a skull that can only be seen from the side. In this brilliant composition, the askew view from the side undermines the impressive secularity seen from the front. A Christ hangs obscured in a distant corner. "Calvary" of course means "the place of the skull" — the place where we confront our mortality, as Christ assumed his. This painting is an emblem of the film — but with a twist. From the frontal view our impression is of a troubled, pained, helpless secular existence, where even a good priest is immediately suspect for chatting with a little girl, where the Catholic church stands condemned for its greed and its abandonment of its children, for its hypocrisy. But viewed from a different angle, from Father James's perspective, there survives the reminder of grace, of forgiveness, of connection. One more point about that painting. It famously hangs in London's National Gallery. In no way could this character own it. So what he's so proud of having spent so much meaningless money to buy, what he thinks he is so dramatically despoiling to demonstrate his power, is — a fake. He was had when he bought it and his every estimation of it is wrong. The fake is as dissociated from its original promise as the character is. There are three priests here. The young colleague and the older bishop look the same: thin, bloodless, lifeless, with no spark or energy to suggest a calling. In contrast Father James has the physical bulk of a Falstaff and erupts into that rogue's drunken violence on the eve of his mortal test. Father James is a man of flesh and passion. Having had a daughter before he became a priest, he knows the flesh. He knows love, so he doesn't need a picture to remember his wife. He has been a drinker. Behind his adoration of the beyond is a full fathoming of the here. He can cry for his murdered dog the way he couldn't cry for his church's young victims, for he too knew disassociation.
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The underrated virtue
UncleTantra30 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
It is somehow appropriate that one of the best films I have seen since Martin McDonagh's "In Bruges" is by his brother, John Michael McDonagh. John showed promise with his film "The Guard," but with this film he takes his place in the pantheon of immortal Irish black humorist-philosophers alongside his brother.

What if you were a Catholic priest, and one of your flock told you during confession that he was going to kill you in a week? Not because you were a bad priest, but because you were a good one. He means it, and you know he means it. He gives you the week to get your affairs in order.

And what if the priest were played by the same Irish national treasure who played the lead in both of the two other aforementioned films, Brendan Gleeson. What if his efforts were supported by the likes of Kelly Reilly, Chris O'Dowd, Aidan Gillen, M. Emmet Walsh and a host of great Irish/English actors? And what if the results were really, really, really good, verging on magnificent? Then you'd have "Calvary."
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Calvary - Utterly Superb.
georgetdavies17 May 2014

Honestly, for those of you who haven't seen this film, go and see it. It's absolutely fantastic!

Brendan Gleeson gives a stunning performance as a troubled priest who has to come to terms with something shocking that he has been told will happen. It paints a brutal, realistic and yet original picture of modern Ireland. All the characters in the film are exaggerated representations of the types of people you get in Ireland today IMO. The story is touching, emotional, real and unforgettable.

My favourite film of 2014 so far. If you liked In Bruges or The Guard or even Seven Psychopaths, see this film. It's darker than all three of those films and it's hard to watch at times but honestly, it's worth it.

A beautifully dark film, with lashings of black humour and some lovely one liners. Just make sure to laugh at the appropriate parts, some viewers in my cinema laughed at the opening line! (once/if you see it you'll understand) I hope audiences outside of the UK and Ireland can enjoy it. I implore you to see it. 9/10, a must see!
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Never wanted to see a movie again, minutes after I watched it!
adination_p10 June 2014
My expectations for this movie were medium, I saw the cast had a lot of great comedians, so I thought there would at least be a few laughs. Instead, I was surprised to see a very powerful and touching movie, absolutely great script, never a doll moment, funny comebacks, terrifyingly creepy monologues and Brendan Gleeson. Hats off to this wonderful, talented actor! I was completely sold on his interpretation of an intellectual, yet devoted priest. And also, I found it very refreshing that the character was written as sincerely religious but not bigoted. I strongly recommend you go see this movie and I can't wait to see it again!
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Best so far in 2014
Eamonn-donaghy12 April 2014
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.
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Surprisingly Far-Reaching
pj-bus13 April 2014
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 usual.

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.
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It's Irish, it's Catholic, it's memorable,
jdesando25 August 2014
"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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Brilliant Film - mixture of hilarious lines in a very dark story
Seamus0625 January 2014
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!
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A serious drama with some funny moments
FionnyAnseo22 April 2014
This movie is NOT I repeat NOT a comedy, it is a drama addressing serious issues from Ireland's past that happens to have some dark comedy moments.

It is well written, directed and acted and draws you into the little community in Sligo. As usual Brendan Gleeson proves he is one of the finest Irish actors around playing the likable priest who realises the worlds problems are real.

The end of the movie will leave you thinking and in all likelihood the cinema will be in silence and that is a sign of what this film has achieved... a contemplative piece forcing us to think on our past and how we treat.

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Nice surprise
bogus-bogus-one27 July 2014
I didn't know anything about this film beforehand. When I saw Brenden Gleeson was in it I was pretty sure it would be at least decent. I was not disappointed. In general I found the story enjoyable, interesting and thought provoking.

I guess what I appreciated the most was that it felt original. It included topics that I've personally thought about but not really investigated in any depth. I can't remember seeing another film about these ideas, presented in this way. It's one of those films that entertained me and I felt a little bit more informed for having watched it.

I wouldn't say it is perfect and don't be surprised if you object to some dialog or scenes. In spots the ideas or points being made didn't flow exactly the way I would have liked. A few times I did get the feeling the film was trying just a tiny bit too hard to make a point. But.. few instances.

One caution, this is probably for adults only. I can't imagine this holding the interest of children and young adults.
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Beautifully Shot and Acted Film about Loneliness, Religion and Death
l_rawjalaurence3 September 2014
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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The Gray Area of the Religion Debate
FilmMuscle2 August 2014
Over the years, the exact prevalence of religion—once a practice of every living individual—has begun to diminish. Even a land that predominantly houses Catholicism has seen many members stray from its church doors and holy hands. Father James Lavelle, a priest played by Brendan Gleeson, seems to be a hopeless believer who's surrounded by a heap of obnoxious, disrespectful townsfolk—a priest who seeks to absolve humanity from the remnants of sin that still plague it, still naïve enough to realize that goal is frankly impossible. In a world of drunkards, murderers, adulterers, rapists—there is no saving grace. This determined idea of forgiveness and cleansing fixed into Father James' devout mind might very well be his downfall—an idea of terrible ignorance, especially considering the fact that he belongs to a faith organization that has persistently concealed atrocious acts of child sexual abuse and the like for many decades.

Are these mean-spirited neighbors not justified in staring at this priest as if they were to spit in his face any minute, bearing in mind his profession and ties? Parents of this town are frightened for their kids, and though Gleeson in particular is good-natured and harmless, the mere sight of him accompanying a pre-adolescent immediately distresses the mother and father as they instantly grab their child with disgust on their face pointed at this poor old man. But again, the situation is so complicated and the multifarious angles described in such a predicament can be deemed understandable from the appropriate perspective. Those parents don't know Father James to the extent that we do, and to them, he's another one from the Catholic Church.

Despite being an Atheist myself, Calvary nonetheless paints a complex picture of a world divided—a film of great depth in its spirituality and philosophy. The majority of the movie is spent in local pubs and homes, laying witness to rich conversations between Gleeson and struggling townspeople whether it concerns his suicidal daughter (Kelly Reilly), a corrupt, yet conscience-stricken, banker (Dylan Moran), or an elderly man on the brink of death, enjoying the sound of a typewriter's clinking as he writes his final story (M. Emmet Walsh). A grim and depressing film this sure is, yet markedly powerful and thought-provoking as well. It advances on to ask questions and leaves us in wonderment. From an atheistic standpoint, it still left me with sympathy for this goodhearted man despite the fact that he was a downright preacher.

At the start, it seems like Gleeson's authority reigns supreme over the town. Being a priest, the people address him as so and welcome him to tête-à-tête, but as the narrative progresses, these same people increase in hostility and insolence as if the events over the past few days have suddenly changed their position. Once again, one of the most important issues this tale touches on is the infamous string of rape cases within the church hierarchy. In Ireland, alone, an influx of 9000 statutory rape reports came in in a single day when child sexual abuse truly came to light back in the 1970's—back when the hypocritical wickedness behind those sanctimonious quarters was gradually revealing itself to the faithful and the doubters alike.

And in this case, Calvary begins with an unknown individual who enters the confessional to discuss his prior sins with Gleeson only to actually begin spouting his utter anger at the church, recalling his years of youth when he "first tasted semen at the mere age of 7." His abhorrence for the clergy has stayed with him to this day and to the point where he vows to murder an innocent priest (Gleeson) as he was once attacked as an innocent boy—the desecration of purity or decency (though this man is not aware of the fact that Father James was once an alcoholic and fought with his own fair share of sins; he's not exactly the most guiltless being anyway).

Similar to last year's Philomena, Calvary emphasizes and criticizes the various facets that have wounded the Catholic Church's public image and forever changed many people's views of these institutions. Now, this movie is quite interesting on a tonal level because at times, it can be exhaustingly tragic and somber, but at the same time—every now and then— the witty style of the script will force you to guffaw at the expense of very serious subject matter. It's a tricky area, but Calvary's particular genre would best be listed as "dark, dark comedy"—the darkest of black comedies. Nevertheless, its mixture of humor, sincere/thoughtful themes, and a memorably tragic tale allowed this drama to cast its lasting effects into my mind long after I've concluded it.

Even though its stance and thematic material is substantially more ambiguous in comparison to Philomena's and some of the motives are left frustratingly opaque to the audience, the film just couldn't leave my thoughts. I would instantly recall its melancholy, Celtic score, its gorgeous and gloomily-lit cinematography (notice that the film cuts from the increasing hopelessness/bleakness of the narrative to shots of roaring waves and darkened nature as if to symbolize the ineluctable storm that the ultimate end of this tale is to bring), and the soulful emotion that drives the narrative forward. Calvary, much like another recent picture (A Most Wanted Man), delves you into contemplation over heavily controversial issues that continue to bedevil society into perpetual argument.
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Moving Allegory
TheExpatriate70017 August 2014
Calvary is the best current movie I've seen so far this year. It features an excellent performance from Brendan Gleeson as well as an involving, if off kilter, plot. The plot follows a priest who receives a death threat in the confessional and his struggle with how to respond, as well as with the foibles of his parishioners.

The primary strength of the film is Brendan Gleeson's performance. I've been a fan of Gleeson since his performance in 28 Days Later, and this film gives him the opportunity to show his full potential as an actor. Kelly Reilly also does well as his daughter, while Aidan Gillen has a memorable turn as a cynical doctor.

Calvary also benefits from good direction by John Michael McDonagh. Aside from keeping the story moving along, and adding a dash of humor in the first half, McDonagh leavens the film with beautiful footage of the Irish countryside. His only misstep is the inclusion is an unnecessary montage following the climax. However, this is too minor to merit real criticism.

The film should be understood as an allegory, rather than a thriller, as its plot might initially suggest, or a realistic story. While Gleeson's character represents a decent man struggling with adversity and his own flaws, the various people he encounters represent various sins and occasionally virtues. For example, a corrupt financier represents greed, Gleeson's fellow priest represents complacency, etc. In many respects, the film is a modern version of a medieval allegory such as Everyman.

Although it has strong Catholic themes, the pious should be warned that the film is very adult in its approach, something it makes clear with the first line of dialogue. Such content should not blind mature believers to the depth and sincerity of its religious message though. Indeed, now classic Catholic writer Graham Greene nearly found some of his books placed on the Index of Forbidden Books because of their adult content. Sometimes you must wade through the darkness in order to get to the light.
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Truly stunning
eliasmanos18 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
By far the best film I've watched the last quadrennia. I really do not know where to begin describing this film, an absolute revelation. Most of the basic categories are at least very good to say, with a good soundtrack, exceptional photography, dialogue, monologues, plot pace, performances and finally; direction.

I'll start with the trailer. A promotion that gives us only the necessary to get only one idea (the basic) of what is the film about and nothing more than that, and at no point gives away all the plot as most Hollywood trailers do. To the film; this director literally screws you down on your seat from minute one. And then, I got to watch the most harmonically stoic storyline unwind calmly, with a great deal of realism, stoicism, humour and wit, this director manages to keep the viewer interested with a very, very simple plot. No hysteria, no stress, no agony, no explosions, no unnecessary nudity, yet and while it is calm; we have a wee healthy suspense on who might be the antagonist, and at the same time McDonagh has got me to Ireland. The photography and the shots takes are simply breathtaking, while I got to see how an Irish town lives, their culture, their point of view. All the characters are "active" each one of them with his own personality, characteristics, personal drama, history and background, with an eye for the detail by the director and the script.

This film get's the viewer to think, to sympathise, to philosophise and genuinely smile with the disarming simplicity of reality.
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The best cinema experiences I've had. Loved watching people's astonishing reaction!
Ayashot4 June 2014
One of the most moving films I've watched in years. Simple story line, however, is full of colourful moments. As to the genre - this is not a typical art house movie, as it does have a goal-driven plot, as well as clearly defined narrative (which becomes clear only at the end of a film). I'm becoming a huge fan of the Irish productions now, after the critically acclaimed (brilliant acting by Daniel Day-Lewis) "My left foot"; "Inside I'm dancing" with the Scottish James McAvoy; Shameful & hungry Michael Fassbender. Surely Brendan Gleeson did a fantastic job in the "Calvary", but bravo to Christ O'Dowd! Please don't read or watch the spoilers . Ah don't even bother about the trailers! If it was on in the cinema again, I'd have gone at least a few times (to be fair, hardly ever watch one film twice).
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Slow moving character-driven film, worth your patience
MovieSonic23 August 2014
This is an example of a character-driven film which is well worth taking the time and patience to invest in the characters and the story.

This film probably has one of the most memorable opening lines in film history so keep the volume turned up for the beginning.

There are plenty of scenes which required a bit too much patience and I felt that one scene in particular was far too graphic, the scene was already poignant enough hence why the loss of 2 stars but there are so many hilarious lines and the mystery aspect was great.

Brendan Gleeson was awesome as usual (loved him in The Guard (2011), a favourite of mine) and Aidan Gillen was good but what is wrong with his voice? I know his Irish accent is real but it never sounds real in any of his work. He seriously sounds like a leprechaun on steroids. But he is funny and obviously a good actor.

I definitely recommend watching this but wait until you're in the mood for a slow but great story and you'll likely enjoy it more.

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Surprisingly dark, astonishingly brilliant
jdreddy11617 April 2014
Warning: 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?"
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Deeper understanding of love and forgiveness
gbl62319 October 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I'd never heard about the movie and watched it on the flight home to California, from a two week trip to Dublin, Ireland. I was hooked from the first line of the film and wept openly at the end. I could identify with every single character and with each of their personal battles. But Father James' character resonated the most. To see this good human being go through such anguish at the near loss of his daughter, the loss of his beloved dog and church, potentially the loss of his life, and what looked like the loss of his faith, broke my heart. Yet through it all, he held on to genuine love and forgiveness, even for the man who threatened to kill him. The last Sunday in the film was so beautiful; so well written and acted. Father James really won my heart when the killer told him to say his prayers and he responded that he already had. He was at peace, even in that very final moment, and I could feel it. That is how powerful this story is. I could watch this film again and again and learn something new from it each time.
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An Irish High Noon
ferguson-62 August 2014
Greetings again from the darkness. Writer/director John Michael McDonagh and actor Brendon Gleeson re-team (The Guard, 2011) in what can be viewed as one giant leap for both filmmaker and actor. Mr. McDonagh is immensely talented and seems to be a natural at keeping his viewers unsure of what's coming.

Set and filmed in a western Irish coastal town, the film has a most unusual first scene, including an acknowledgment of such as the priest (Gleeson) says "Certainly a startling opening line". This occurs in the confessional with an extreme close-up as the unseen (by us) parishioner then says "I'm going to kill you Father". With Sunday week as the promised deadline, the movie follows the Priest with a placard for each day, as he makes his way through the maze of local town characters. He also receives a visit from his daughter (Kelly Reilly), fresh off a suicide attempt (he was married prior to joining the priesthood).

The film bounces from very dark humor to extreme philosophical and theological discussions between the town folks and the priest. We quickly learn what a good man he is, and struggle to understand why the locals flash such vitriol his way. The Catholic Church, and all that implies these days, certainly plays a key role, but more than that, this is about the make-up and character of people.

This is not the place to go into detail about the story, as the film is best unwrapped and interpreted by each viewer. What can be said is that this is exceptional filmmaking: it's well directed, beautifully photographed, superbly acted, has a terrific script, and encourages much discussion.
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KineticSeoul13 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This has got to be one of the most engraving movie I have seen this year. Mainly because it doesn't go in a pretentious direction, but for the most part stays balanced. Some may complain that this film stereotypes Irish people, but I don't think that is the point. Some even say this film is nihilistic, but I gotta disagree. Mainly because the priest struggles and fights through the hardships/struggles and keeps his faith. I didn't like the choice the killer made at the end. But in the real world, stuff like that just happens. And it's probably to show pragmatism in a way. The story incorporates well connected psychological and philosophical areas when it comes to human being very well. Especially since the plot goes along in the time frame of a week. So, yeah a lot of the unlikable character are practical versions of some people out there. The dialogues drew me in from the beginning scene and most of it has it's meaning. It's a story of a light that could flicker out in darkness, but does it's best to stay lit. I think churches spend too much time blaming the outside world instead of trying to fix the interior. The virus spreads from the inside out, not outside in a lot of cases when it involves the church. Instead of being the salt and light of the world, unfortunately I think lots of churches are driven by their own image, reputation, greed, self-justification and pride. Which gives the church the image of hypocritical bigotry. Overall this is one of One of the most compelling, humorous (in a sort of uncomfortable manner), sincere (none of that pretentious crap) and yet bleak/depressing movie I have seen this year. All the cast are really proficient with there roles, but Brendan Gleeson really does shine.

It also has a amazing soundtrack to go with it. Some Irish music is starting to grow on me.

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The Good Priest
claudio_carvalho30 May 2015
In a Sunday morning in a small town in Ireland, a parishioner confesses to Father James (Brendan Gleeson) the sexual abuse he was submitted by a priest when he was a child. He tells that he will kill James, who is a good priest, at the beach on the next Sunday instead of a bad priest to disturb the Church. Along the week, Father James has to deal with his troubled and estranged daughter Fiona Lavelle (Kelly Reilly) that tried to commit suicide; with the disturbed butcher Jack Brennan (Chris O'Dowd) that hit his unfaithful wife Veronica (Orla O'Rourke); with her aggressive lover Simon (Isaach De Bankolé); with an old writer (M. Emmet Walsh) that needs attention; with the cynical and atheist Dr. Frank Harte (Aidan Gillen); with the problematic and spiritually empty millionaire Michael Fitzgerald (Dylan Moran) that wants to donate money to the church. Meanwhile his church is burnt to the ground and Father James gets a gun from the local chief of police; then he decides to travel to Dublin. What will be Father James's final decision?

"Calvary" is a powerful Irish drama about the polemic theme relative to the child abuse by Catholic priests and the effects in the victim. The story follows the journey of the good priest James along the week after the threatening during the confession. There are two points that deserved a better development in the story. How Father James did not recognize the voice of the killer? Why did he shoot the bar in an attitude not consistent with his behavior? Brendan Gleeson has one of his best performances in the role of the priest. The scene with the chief of the police shows why the Catholic Ireland has recently approved the referendum of the same-sex marriage. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Calvário" ("Calvary")
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Recommended viewing
violentauntie1 July 2014
At least for those who like good movies regardless of their genre or story.

No danger of spoilers from me, I see no need to discuss the story or summarize it a way that unfailingly serves only to demean a good story (which takes at least 80 minutes or 120 pages to tell) and spoil it's impact to some degree.

By way of review though my justification for recommending this film is the acting, especially Brendan who is superb in the main role, but all the characters are believable and have depth. The directing; an actors director no doubt, this is a drama which like all dramas is driven by the characters reactions to the world and the events of the story, and they kept me interested with their belief in the strong script and direction. Finally the beauty and emptiness of the images are combined consummately in the edit with suitable and enhancing music. What more do you need?
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Extremely well-drawn out characters with hints of very dark comedy
pcrprimer6 July 2014
I came into this movie not having watched any trailers, and only having read the brief IMDb summary. The movie opens with a dark confession that sets up the main plot. Throughout the movie, there were bits of very dark comedy like the young man's logic for wanting to join the army. There were also a lot of familiar faces from other works (Littlefinger, the actress from Eden Lake, Jill Taylor's father from Home Improvement) It was interesting how each of the town's main characters represented the main conflicts or sins that people have with the church in modern society. It was a shame that we couldn't get more of the back story from each of the characters, however we knew enough to get the feeling that we knew them well. I felt that Gleeson's priest was in some sort of purgatory based on how each character presented a different kind of obstacle that exists in society. The angry parent of the daughter who was having an innocent conversation with Gleeson was a perfect example of how more and more people view the church. In the end, it was an excellent movie that kept the viewer enraptured throughout the story.
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