Calvary is a not-well-known Irish film released this year that features some well known actors. Some of them are Brendan Gleeson (who plays the main role) who played Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody in the Harry Potter films, Aidan Gillen who’s Petyr Baelish off Game of Thrones, the bitter stand-up comic Dylan Moran of Black Books/Shaun of the Dead fame, Kelly Reilly who played Mary Morstan in the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films, and Domnhall Gleeson, who’s set to star in Star Wars Episode VII. Well, I hope that’ll get you interested in watching this. Because, the prospect of having Dylan Moran, Aidan Gillen, and Domhnall Gleeson in one film is what interested me in this film.
This film tells us about a priest (Brendan Gleeson) who was threatened by someone during a confession. The person threatened to kill him in seven days. The film covers the seven days from the threat until the death. The grand design is as simple as that, actually. But the story is not as simple as that – the seven days highlighted the priest’s “midlife crisis” (or more accurately described as a near-death crisis) as he struggles to keep his life in order, make himself safe, and connect with his community. Yet the priest’s worry about the threat, the truth that it could be anyone in his small community, and the weight of letting go is burdening himself – and we can see the true nature of the priest himself.
This film is set in a small Irish community, so don’t be surprised if the characters speak in a near-British accent while paying in Euros. Besides of the priest, the community features a smörgåsbord of characters with different personalities. Kelly Reilly plays the priest’s daughter who wanted to connect with him. Chris O’Dowd plays a meat seller with a dry wit. Aidan Gillen plays a (sort of creepy) nurse with tendencies of the hedonistic. Domhnall Gleeson plays a psychopath in his tenure in prison. Marie-Josee Croze plays a grieving wife whose husband died in an accident. Killian Scott plays a young man who wanted to join the army. And, my favorite character of all, Dylan Moran as a jaded rich man who goes through some serious character development in the movie.
There are TONS of reasons why you have to watch this movie. This movie is often labeled as a comedy, but don’t be tricked; the kind of comedy John Michael McDonagh (the director and the writer) is aiming for is not your ordinary, slapstick American comedy. It’s all black comedy. For people who are not familiar with black comedy, they might just refer to this as a plain drama. But the clashing personalities of the characters and the war inside the community is what makes it a comedy.
An obvious reason to watch this film is its beauty. The cinematography brilliantly portrays the beauty of the Irish coastlines and conveys a sense of contemplation. Another reason to love this film is that this film is not just an ordinary whodunnit written with a Broadchurch-like small town approach, but this film also explores what the victim feels. This film features the war of innocence and wrath inside the priest, and even leaves a room of doubt for the (supposed) holiest man in the community. As this war tears the priest apart, we can see who the priest truly is, and time won’t wait as his seven days goes by.
The third reason why this movie is really good is that there’s no “bad” or “good” people in this movie. Yes, we can obviously spot antiheroes and antivillains, but there is no real boundary between the good and the evil in the people’s personalities. Yet, we can see the war of good and evil enraging between the characters. The priest with his near-death crisis. The rich man with his hedonistic addictions. The wife with her faith. This creates a deep exploration of the characters, and it makes every character, even the asshole-est one, likeable.
The only problem about this movie is that the writing is not cleverly delivered by most of the actors. The standout performances of this film are Brendan Gleeson’s, Dylan Moran’s, and Domhnall Gleeson’s. The person who eventually is going to murder the priest does not deliver the feelings I expected him to deliver. BUT YOU STILL SHOULD WATCH THIS MOVIE. I watched this movie about a month ago and it has not left my mind since then.