I remember this movie being screened in Cluj-Napoca at TIFF last year but somehow I did not manage to see it then. Recently a friend brought it up and so I decided it was time to watch it at last. And what a movie it was. As I am writing this I’m thinking how much information to give to you so as not to give too much of the movie away. It is too bad that the beginning of the movie, which is one great scene, was put in the trailer. But I think it does more good than harm if it gets you to watch a movie. Which is one of 2014’s must see if you ask me.
Brendan Gleeson, who plays the main character in the movie, Father James, said in an interview that the movie’s idea came by when discussing with its writer about “how difficult must be to uphold a sense of truth and goodness when you’re being vilified.” And so, writer director Michael McDonagh, with whom Gleeson worked previously on the movie “Guard”, wrote the story for “Calvary” and also the priest character for Gleeson.
In summary the story goes like this: Father James worships at his parish in a small Irish village near the sea, where he also tries to be involved with the community and tries to be helpful through well thought out advice. One day, at confession, a man presents himself with a disturbing story. He is a troubled man and he explains how, when he was little, he was sexually abused by a priest who did not get to be held responsible for what he did. And by doing so he sets the mood for the movie in some way (I’ll explain later). So the mysterious man has a vendetta. He tells straight to Father James that he wants to kill him next Sunday and he even tells him that they should meet on the beach so he could carry on with his wish. The argument for his wanting is that no one cares if a bad priest dies, but if an innocent one does then that will cause a stir. He tells Father James: “I’m going to kill you because you’ve done nothing wrong.”
Further on we see how the priest relates to the community and also we are introduced to his daughter Fiona. We find out that she also is a troubled soul, having attempted suicide. So Father James was married previously to becoming a priest, but his wife died. Throughout the movie father and daughter try to build a satisfactory relationship again having grown apart when he left to become a priest and kind of isolated himself from his relatives. His relationship with his daughter and the death threat aren’t the only things he will worry about on the week shown in the movie. Most of the town’s people, whom we see in the movie, don’t seem to like him at all. Some have a trouble with what he represents and others are not religious people. We are also shown a scene where he meets a girl on the road and tries to interact with her, but fast comes her father looking very worried and kind of scared and we can only imagine what he might be thinking. We see how a faithful and good man fights every day with misconceptions while staying true to his mission. Also, at some point, his church is burned down and that’s not the only loss he suffers.
The movie’s title “Calvary” is another word for Golgotha (the site were the Bible says Jesus was crucified; go to Wikipediafor more) and so alludes to the happenings and, more so, the days before Jesus was crucified. You could see Father James’s story as a reference to Jesus’s suffering and how he went on to be sacrificed for the sins of others, just the role the mysterious man from the beginning of the movie wants Father James to take on. Premise which makes the movie even better and more interesting. To me at least.
Brendan Gleeson’s performance is so well done that you begin to wonder if he was a priest at some point in his life. Also what I liked about the movie is that it is very thought provoking and that it doesn’t rely on clichés to make a point nor does it try to really be for your liking. What it does is spark emotion in you. Not one you’d have from a Hollywood movie, which usually ends on a positive note and leaves you with a peace of mind.
Now the big question is: will Father James make a run for it or will he meet the mysterious man at the beach and risk his life? The other question would be “who is that mysterious man?”, which I also asked myself throughout the movie and inspected each character attentively to try and pinpoint him, but the point of the movie isn’t really that, and you realize this after you’ve seen it. The first question makes much more sense. Will Father James go to meet the guy? If yes, why? And if no, why? I feel like this is the better perspective. I will tell you that Father James does go to the beach on the set date, but I am not telling you how the movie ends. You’ll have to see for yourself.