Killing a Priest on a Sunday – Calvary (2014)

I don’t think there’s such thing as a “light” priest movie.  So an Irish priest (Brendan Gleeson) receives a death threat during a confession.  The logic behind the unidentified person on the other side of the vestibule is that nobody would mourn the killing of a bad priest, but a good priest, that would be something that would make headlines.  He gives him a week to get his affairs in order, and this film is about the tumultuous days that follow.  Right from the very opening line, you know what kind of film this is going to be: dark, and dealing with an uncomfortable subject matter.  Given the topic at hand, I thought this was going to be a lot like the movie Doubt, but this is paced a whole lot better, and it is something that I found far easier to get into.

Brendan Gleeson and Chris O'Dowd in John Michael McDonagh's Calvary.If I said that I thought all priests movies looked the same, what would that make me?  A professionist?

I know there has been an influx of movies about Christian positivity in lately, like God’s Not Dead, and Heaven Is for Real.  This isn’t one of those movies, and you’re not going to feel particularly great after you get done watching this.  Everybody in this small town has the darkest of dark problems, including (but not limited to) domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse and suicidal thoughts.  Speaking of suicide, this really feels like it was written by somebody giving serious contemplation to ending it all, and somebody might want to give writer/director John Michael McDonagh a checkup call to make sure he’s doing okay.  There are a lot of different plot threads going on here, and it is very much a slice-of-life type movie.  It showcases a full week in this priest’s life, and it works because it is so well acted and aptly penned.  Everybody who isn’t Gleeson is only given a small amount to actually do, but I was impressed by Chris O’Dowd here; this is a role I wouldn’t have imagined he is capable of, being that I only really knew him as being the funnyman from Bridesmaids and The IT Crowd.

chris odowdNot to sound coarse, but I’m pretty sure he could have solved his own problems by turning his brain off and on again.

It’s really Gleeson’s movie though, and he is such a marvelous character actor; I’m sure there’s a long list of directors that want a movie where they would get to work with him.  Watching him go through this crisis of faith by being put in this quandary of a situation is the driving force of the movie, and you develop a real connection with him because he never hesitates to call people out on their malarkey.  You know that bad things are right around every corner in this movie, and it’s something poignant that you dwell upon, and for that, I think Calvary does succeed.

Calvary (2014) ****

– Critic for Hire

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