Set in rural Sligo, Brendan Gleeson plays the very decent yet sharp-witted Father James Lavelle who is given this unnerving news. While Father James has an idea of who issued the threat, the audience is kept guessing.
During the week he meets with some of the troubled and vibrant residents of the area. Father Lavelle attempts to resolve their issues, when his distressed daughter Fiona pays him a visit. As he tries to give hope and solace to the people he meets, he must cope with his own worry of impending death. As each day passes the tension kicks up a notch.
The death threat combined with the villagers’ lack of respect for him gives Father James a strong reason to run away. Unlike the typical on screen portrayal of Priests, Father James is a loving and caring character with a paternal side. His closeness to daughter Fiona softens the audience’s view of him.
Written by John Michael McDonagh,Calvary is nowhere near as funny as McDonagh’s 2011 film, The Guard, but it is more complex and thought-provoking. Dark, dry humour is interjected thoughout, but doesn’t balance out the heaviness of the subject matter. Themes of child sexual abuse, faith, repentance, rural isolation, violence and drug use feature throughout. McDonagh treats the issues addressed with sensitivity and realism. Gleeson is excellent and this performance just shows how diverse an actor he is.
The cast are superb. Many well-known faces feature including Domhnall Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Dylan Moran, Pat Shortt, David McSavage and Killian Scott who plays Tommy in Love/Hate. For all the comedians who make an appearance, it’s a lot darker than you expect.
O’Dowd and Domhnall Gleeson both give gritty, powerful performances. Kelly Reilly who plays the priest’s on screen daughter delivers clever, witty dialogue which provides a platform for the audience to discover more about Father James.
The cinematography is beautiful with shots of the western coastline and the vast expanse of green Irish countryside. The film is slow paced in parts, but it isn’t long before Gleeson’s on screen presence grabs the audience’s attention again. Calvary will stay with you long after the final credits.
Calvary is in Irish cinemas on Friday, April 11.