Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Calvary (15) | Film Review

Calvary, dir/wr. John Michael McDonagh, st. Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Domhnall Gleeson, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran

The location for Calvary's Northern Irish barony might very well have been twinned with Lars von Trier's small American town of Dogville, such are the venal characters that reside within. But whereas the inhabitants of Dogville are undone by their own wretchedness, there's no such retribution in McDonagh's film, only a mirror held up to reflect a darkness that probably resides in most communities. Standing like a beacon through all this is Gleeson's Father James, a quiet, humble figure who's told one day at confession of his impending demise at the hands of one of his parishioners who suffered priest-inflicted sexual abuse as a child. Killing a good man, the voice behind the latticed screen says, would reverberate more violently through the Catholic Church than killing one who's unjust. Father James later admits he knows which one of his flock the voice belongs too, but continues to attend his parish regardless. His one companion is his daughter Fiona (Reilly) who visits from London and upon whom he impresses a need to look beyond sin and to the virtues that are often overlooked in people - above all, prizing forgiveness as the most important. McDonagh's film isn't an explicit re-anactment of the fourteen Stations of the Cross, but the intent is clear. James, played with Gleeson's endearingly hang-dog cragginess, but with fleetingly caustic slivers of wicked humour, carries the weight of the community's ills on his back, unflinchingly. It's often heartbreaking to observe. Reilly and Gleeson make a handsome double-act, but it's the supporting turns by Moran and O'Dowd, great comic actors, here dampening the soul in a pair of astoundingly near-nihilistic performances, that truly shine.