STARRING: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, Isaach de Bankolé, M. Emmett Walsh, Marie-Josée Croze, David Wilmot, Orla O’Rourke, Killian Scott, Owen Sharpe, Pat Shortt and Gary Lydon
After he is threatened during a confession, a good-natured priest must battle the dark forces closing in around him. Calvary starts up with Father James is taking confession when a voice on the other side tells him that he was sexually abused by a priest as a child. Looking to take retribution for what happened to him since the priest that abused him is dead, he plans to kill Father James a week later. Father James then goes about his daily routine, now with his suicidal daughter showing up and having to deal with people in the community that challenges him spiritually and emotionally. The partnership of Brendan Gleeson and John Michael McDonagh teaming up once again after the success of The Guard (2011), I patiently waited to see Calvary on digital release, after just missing out on it at the cinema. After hearing much praise about the film I’ve finally checked out it and have to say…I feel letdown by it. Yes, indeed I believe the hype bug hit me so this is why I feel this way towards the film. There’s positives to take from this film of course, the first one obviously being Brendan Gleeson as Father James. Gleeson is literally your big screen everyman, you hand him any role and Gleeson just plays it with such authenticity it doesn’t appear as acting. His character of Father James is the most well rounded from the film and you’re with him on his journey, and witnessing how the communities belief’s, or lack of, takes its toll on him through the course of the week. The cinematography is at times beautiful here, with the long shots from the air over the land or over the coast. There’s the relationship with his daughter Fiona that brings the emotional centre of the father/daughter dynamic trying to repair their own wounds and find solace amongst each other and Kelly Reilly does well here and is the next more fleshed out character after Father James.
The problem I had with the film was that despite the initial premise of what the film is about, it doesn’t really play much again up until the final act when it comes to the final day and everything else in the middle is uneven to say the least. I get the themes used and the point of the characters and the ways in which they challenge Father James’s convictions but it doesn’t automatically make for intriguing viewing for me personally. The majority of the characters that appear are one-dimensional, one-noted in their mannerisms of being oddballs that the scenes that a few of them have with Father James seem rather pointless in the scheme of things and slow the momentum of the film down. Granted, the supporting cast do have their moments where they shine in the film, with Chris O’Dowd playing against type, Aidan Gillen as the Atheist doctor (that monologue with Brendan Gleeson at the bar is one of the darkest ‘If God exists, why does bad things like this exist?’ moments I’ve heard) and M.Emmet Walsh as the old writer aware that he’s nearing death. The one thing that let me feeling there was no point to was playing the ‘Who is it?’ angle that the film went with, as soon as you hear the voice again after that confession scene, you know rightfully who it is yet the film still drops these red herrings of, oh it could be this person or that person.
A strong opening and a strong end, the film falls apart for me trying to fill in through the gaps of A to B with some moments of complete randomness. Interesting themes discussed but it almost was played too much on that rather than making most of the characters more than one note. 5/10