Calvary Awards poster
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, (obligatory) Domnhall Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Pat Short, Aidan Gillen
Release Date: April 2014
Rating: 4/5 Shots of brandy for the shock
This film is stark and powerful. When I was still an usher in the cinema I would make time to be in a screen when this film would end- because a haunting silence fell over the entire auditorium without fail and you could hear a pin drop.
Calvary, is a sad but well told tale that displays the death of a lot of Irish stereotypes and the decline of the church in rural Ireland. It is also a nice metaphor for how terrorism works and I have a lot of (begrudging) respect for McDonagh after this one.
I’m not a church sympathiser, and I probably never will be but this is still a story that made me sad. Phenomenal acting and some haunting monologues make for a dark comedy that’s more dark than comedy.
This is a cultural decline and the story of a victim- not the sexual assault victim but the good people in a broken system who fall victim to the terrible acts of the people who also represent their organisation- widespread fear caused by deplorable actions of a minority forever change how the world views and reacts to a group, this is exactly what happened with the middle east and it was a genius way to show how this has happened to the church- although not intentional in this case, I picked up some nice similarities behind this film and the theory’s and definitions of terrorism in modern behavioural economics.
Again, I’m not in any way sympathising with the church, I’m just saying that this is a very intelligent way to make an audience feel bad for someone that they wouldn’t normally feel bad for. It humanises the priest while also mirroring society, how the banks are still crooked but want help, the town hate him and bully him but keep him around as some sort of relic to torture and how the police are different from everything they’re portrayed to be. Every major pillar of Irish society is portrayed in this film and a stereotype about it challenged, what’s interesting is how all of these pillars of society treat the priest so horribly. He doesn’t care though, he’s just a good man trying to help people who need it in his own sometimes mean way.
He’s sympathetic to their obviously depressed and overly compensating gay man, helps the depressed banker no matter how hard he is on him and ultimately sacrifices one of his own organisation and drives him out of the priesthood with insults to help him realise that he’s not going to be happy as a priest. All of the things that Irish society once (and some still do) despise all gather on this one side of a line and bully someone from a despised organisation, even though the banker and the barman and doctor and the gay man are the ones who are the bad people everyone stands on the one side with them to hate the priest, the only good person in the town.
While comments made by the director in 2014 really changed how I view him and painted a picture of this Irish man who hates Ireland, the strange habit that he still has in all his films of making Irish people out to be extraordinarily well read and literary still stands true in this. He’s some man for biting the hand that feeds him, but I won’t rant on that for too long.
Calvary is an excellent film but I really didn’t enjoy reviewing it because I had to sit through it again, it’s very hard to watch once and to willingly put yourself through this journey again is very hard. The best way I can describe it is a powerful film that deserves to be watched but is hard to go through a second time. It’s a very slow tension builder and an excellent ‘whodunnit’.