Director and screenwriter John Michael McDonagh made the film The Guard in 2011, starring the great Irish actor Brendan Gleeson. Three years later, he is shooting a kind of thematic sequel that will represent the second part of the planned kind of trilogy “Suicide Club”. Although some actors have experience in comedies Calvary is far from an entertaining film and is much deeper than it may seem at first glance / watching.
This time, Gleason plays a Catholic priest named James, who at the beginning of the film is threatened with death by an unknown person during the act of confession. The person claims to have been abused by a Catholic priest in his youth and, although Father James is a good and decent priest, he must be killed in order for justice to be served. Father James has a period of a week before the murder takes place. Deeply shaken by these threats, he must continue his parish work in the week ahead.
During the film, we have an insight into numerous deep conversations with various members of the small Irish town where the action takes place. It turns out that each of the fellow citizens has moral problems and each of them can easily be connected to the threat that Father James received. However, if we remove the effect of the thriller that permeates this drama, we still get a very good and functional film, primarily because of the extraordinarily written characters and the dialogue that takes place between them. It is precisely these dialogues and the themes that permeate them that are the center of the story, and not the fate of Father James himself, as one gets the impression at first sight.
All the characters in the film are, in a way, broken people. There are twelve of them in total, and each of them suffers from different problems, so there is information that the characters are related to the apostles, of whom there were also twelve. Calvary is not a film about religion, but it has a lot of important things to say about faith and Christian virtues in general. A big plus for the dialogues is the subtle black humor that is in balance with a large number of spiritual issues. The location where the film is set is also symbolic, as the viewer is tucked away in a beautiful Irish landscape with sea waves that represents a kind of diametrical contrast to the characters who live there.
Brendan Gleason is a fantastic actor who has already been proven to have a great collaboration with the McDonagh brothers (he also starred in the film In Bruges, directed and written by Martin McDonagh). The McDonagh brothers are excellent screenwriters who easily work out the plot, write rich characters and dialogues in which every word makes sense, and their specialty is adding black, sharp British humor exactly where it should be. The characters are entrusted to trusted actors, so Chris O’Dowd plays a man whose wife has an affair with an African worker, while Kelly Reilly plays the daughter of James ’father who is going through hard times. Personally, the most interesting to me was Aidan Gillen, whom we all know from the Game Of Thrones series, in the role of an atheist doctor.
Calvary is a superb, slow-moving drama that deals with the moral decline of modern man and the ways in which each individual copes with it. Great acting, top script and universal themes that the film deals with, what more can you want than good drama.