Calvary (2014) – Ace Mini-Review

Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Dylan Moran
Written & Directed by: John Michael McDonagh
Ireland/U.K., 2014

How good is this movie?

This story of a good man’s attempt to minister to people who do not want him and serve a god who seems to have abandoned him is bleak and cynical, yet also moving and even hopeful.  The humour is dry and dark, but very funny in places.  Brendan Gleeson’s performance combines just the right balance of authority, sorrow, humour, and disgust.  Non-Christians might find the ending too self-congratulatory, while religious experts may question its theological soundness.  Not being either of those things, however, I can only say that I find the film’s unorthodox take on forgiveness intriguing and even beautiful.

How ace is this movie?

Father James has a daughter, so he has clearly had sex.  However, his priestly vows demand celibacy, and he appears to be honouring them.  Whether this is more from strength of will or lack of interest is not clear.  There are very few women around, and Veronica is the only one who flirts with him, which he mostly ignores.  He does not have many friends, but he clearly loves his daughter and his dog.  He also has a heart to serve and care for those around him, even if his attempts to do so are continually rebuffed.

Sexual abuse by priests is a major concern of the film.  Although Father James is innocent of this crime, he still lives with the shame of belonging to the organisation that facilitated it for so long.  This is particularly evident in a scene where he strikes up a conversation with a little girl.  Although the interaction is completely innocent, the girl’s father still angrily pulls her away, suggesting that, for him, all priests are potential abusers.

As for other people’s sexuality, the priest’s attitude is relatively non-judgemental.  He is appalled by stories of rape, but seems to view consensual sex as, at worst, a lesser sin.  He does not approve of Veronica’s adultery, but is more concerned by her husband’s possible beating of her.  He does not offer any opinions about homosexuality and tries unsuccessfully to connect with one of the gay characters.  And, in the film’s funniest scene, he advises a sexually frustrated young man that pornography and casual sex are both better options than joining the army.  Over-all it seems that sex is not a big concern for him – either his own or other people’s.

3.5 Stars; 3 Aces

Wishing you a blessed Good Friday and a happy Easter!

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