– by C. Eden
Calvary is an Irish film about a Catholic priest from a small town who gets a very specific death threat while sitting in the confession box hearing out the regrets of the people in his church. Starring Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly and Mitch O’Dowd, the film is an offbeat journey into the life of a small town priest battling through his duties every day while a storm looms in the way of his possible impending death.
The town of County Silgo is a small place with roaring surf and windy beaches, green fields and old buildings. Camera-work and music by Patrick Cassidy brings the audience into the world of Father Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson, Braveheart, Harry Potter films), an Irish Catholic priest clinging to his morals and character in the midst of all hell breaking loose around him. Father Lavelle has made friends of all kinds and the film is skilled at showing the monotony of his life while introducing ever increasingly dejected and morally-barren townspeople he knows.
Father Lavelle spends what could be his last week, broken down in days with subtitles, reading the Last Rites to a car crash victim, visiting an inmate in hospital that just wants to talk about the murders he has committed, and giving out free advice to his adulterer peers at the pub. He also visits the home of one of his old friends who has a gay male prostitute over at the same time. It seems wherever the man goes, he is surround by “sin” and ides which the Catholic Church would not appreciate and on top of it, everyone who he identifies as a friend is more like a frenemy. Snide comments, taunts and digs at either himself or his faith ride the back of every comment made to him, even when he is just going about his business.
Frequently depicted are the well-known gripes the general public seem to have with the idea of Catholicism or a faith in general and they are all aimed at him personally. In one instance, he is walking by the beach and finds a young girl walking on the same path, the two have a lighthearted exchange before her father screeches to a stop in his car nearby and jumps out to grab her, telling Father Lavelle to stay away from her. Father Lavelle has quips and answers for nearly all the heckling that modern day priests would probably be envious of. This dialogue helps to bring out the character of the man, showing he is not just the black robe and white collar. At one point he says, “That’s the church, not me,” in regards to decisions made after World War and it becomes a prominent theme throughout the film.
The supporting cast are all incredible actors. Fiona, (Kelly Reilly, Heaven Is For Real, Eden Lake) the from out of town, battling her own problems daughter who comes to stay for a few days brings her own twists to the story. Her arrival sees Father Lavelle having to deal with more personal things while keeping time to counsel people and carry out his duties. Frequently speaking her mind, Fiona creates a storm when she is face to face with people her father otherwise doesn’t engage with while they solicit him for money or make fun of his job.
Given that the film is classified as a Black Comedy/Drama and there seems to be a lot more Drama than laughs, although they do come. There are characters that provide a few laughs, Milo (Killian Scott) being one of them. His tales of woe trying to find a girlfriend and thoughts on pornography and buying a motorbike are just what the film needs as it does get heavy for a long period three quarters of the way through. The short humorous break reignites interest that may have been lost up until then.
Like a lot of films of this nature, there are few bumps along the way, everything travels quite levelly until the beginning of the end in which the audience sees Father Lavelle’s pressure finally get to him. There are bar fights, gunfire and buildings being burned as the film finally plunges down and you get the rollercoaster ride you were hoping for.
Overall it is an okay film, there are a lot of steady parts where one is hanging out for some sort of action and once it gets there, the action is almost too much, seemingly not fitting with the rest of the cruisey nature of the film. It is a film for the older crowd, maybe those who have grown up around or in places where there is a definite clash of faith and deteriorating times. See it if you can but make sure you get a comfy seat because some parts make the film seem longer than it is.