Saturday, August 23, 2014


In the opening scene of John Michael McDonagh's Calvary, the fate of Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is sealed by an unseen presence. In that scene, we witness Gleeson's face as Father James tries to process what he's been told. It's a lingering long take that resonates for the rest of the film.

But what does McDonagh's film revolve around afterwards? Simply put, it focuses on Father James in the days after his fate becomes sealed and the various townsfolk he encounters. To anyone else, no one would think too much about menial moments like those. But to Father James, with his days numbered, they take on a new meaning.

With Calvary, McDonagh does an inversion from his last film The Guard. Rather than having a morally corrupt lead around good people, Calvary features a good lead around morally corrupt people. But rather than being a dark comedy like The Guard, Calvary opts for a more serious and somber tone.

McDonagh also got a rather impressive (and very Irish) cast. As well as Gleeson, the cast features the likes of Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Chris O'Dowd and Dylan Moran. (There's also Domhall Gleeson as an one-scene wonder.) They're all great but this easily Gleeson's show. Without a doubt, this is his best work as an actor.

Calvary is a quiet by many means but it also provides the impact when it's required. Thanks to McDonagh's direction and Gleeson's performance, the film shows how darkness lingers where you least expect it.

My Rating: ****

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