Movie a Day Blog has long admired the Irish actor Brendan Gleeson, who can do everything from the HARRY POTTER movies to serious drama, as evidenced in his last collaboration with writer-director John Michael McDonagh, THE GUARD (2011).
Their new film together, CALVARY (2014) — I came up with a lot of Westerns on IMDb before spelling the title correctly — is a serious film about a serious subject.
Gleeson plays a late-blooming priest: a man who reassessed his life after the death of his wife and decided to take up the cloth. But it’s a bad time to be a priest in Ireland, an island reeling from the multiple and sickening accounts of the abuse of children, girls as well as boys, that went on for decades, if not centuries.
Gleeson tries to tend to his small parish in coastal County Sligo, and nothing but troubles on his communion plate. There’s a mass murderer to comfort in jail (chillingly played by Gleeson’s son Domhnall, who proves the acting gene is inheritable), an angry African immigrant mechanic (the implacable Issach De Bankole), a fragile daughter (played in a quirky and effective fashion by Kelly Reilly), and the usual crises of faith and fortune.
This burly figure strides over the desolate landscape in an old fashioned cassock, trying to evoke fear and faith, it sometimes seems. He’s saddled with an associate, a snarky 30-something priest, who while not overtly gay, certainly seems to have mixed motives for being that rare commodity in Ireland, a young priest.
Writer-director McDonagh is the brother of the more acclaimed Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, who won an Oscar for his short film, SIX SHOOTER (2004) that also starred Gleeson, and then went on to make IN BRUGES (2008). There seems to be some competition between the brothers as to who is the better filmmaker (and who can use Gleeson in the most films), but actually, both seem pretty talented.
CALVARY is that rare film that aspires to deeper reflections on faith, hope, and yes, even charity. Every performer is perfectly cast, and the constrictions of a small remote Irish coastal village, while stunning in its stark beauty, are carefully and convincingly delineated.
The plot of CALVARY is both too complex to easily sum up and too good to be cavalierly disclosed, other than to say the ending is unexpected and devastating in its impact. This is an intelligent person’s film, marked by superior writing and acting, and is a welcome balm to the crap the studios have managed to put out every single weekend this summer.



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