Calvary Review

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Gleeson impresses again in this spiritual sequel to The Guard, but it's far from a fun ride

by Casimir Harlow Aug 18, 2014 at 10:47 PM

  • Movies review

    Calvary Review

    Reuniting the writer/director of The Guard, John Michael McDonagh, with his favourite leading man, Brendan Gleeson, this is, in many ways, a spiritual sequel – no pun intended, considering it focuses on a priest.

    However, the tone is far more dark and oppressive, largely eschewing The Guard's action-comedy antics in favour of gloom and doom. Still, Gleeson’s on absolute top form, turning in another scene-stealing, powerhouse performance in yet another unusual, atypical role which requires him to delve deep and commit wholeheartedly. Despite the low-key nature of the story – which involves a priest who is informed in a confessional that a man is going to kill him in a week, just to make a statement against ‘good’ priests – it’s worth seeing for Gleeson alone.
    McDonagh’s remit was apparently to provide something of an antithesis to all the tales of bad priests, who abuse their flock, by positing this unconventional but undeniably good man of the cloth, who is both dedicated to the cause and perfect in the position. Gleeson convinces utterly in this respect – you get the feeling that this is the way you’d like all priests to be; not, as his character states to another man of the cloth “somebody who should be an accountant working for an insurance company.” He’s tough and no-nonsense, thoughtful and human, honest but not critical, forgiving but not frivolous with forgiveness..

    The mixed group of largely unpleasant – but wholly realistic – characters who populate his world include Chris O’Dowd’s surprisingly effective turn as an abusive husband, a thoughtful Kelly Reilly as Gleeson’s suicidal daughter, a suitably snarly Aidan Gillen as a the typically morbid mortician, and a scary turn from Gleeson’s own son, Domhnall, as an imprisoned murderer.

    Worth watching for Gleeson alone.

    Still, it’s Gleeson who shines, bringing in a soulful performance that drives the entire piece. Despite the raving about the performance(s), there’s no doubt that the film struggles to find a meaningful ending, and the choices made along the way are arguably more effective than the destination.

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