August 31, 2014

Movie Review: Calvary (2014)

I find it funny, the first time I heard of this movie was a couple of months back from my mother. It is rare that she hears about a film before me, but she did. It was being reviewed on the news and she told me it was very well reviewed. Now some time has passed and the small, traveling release has made its way to my neck of the woods and I decided to give it a go. Pretty much all I knew going in was that it was well reviewed, it featured a strong performance from Brendan Gleeson, and was about a priest. I am rather glad I only knew that, the movie reveals itself to be rather engrossing, and not more than a little depressing.

Calvary is a rather fascinating movie that plays counter to a lot of what is in cinemas at the moments. This is a movie not about explosions, chases, superheroes, antiheroes, or anything like that. This is an examination of character, a character surrounded by an ever closing noose, a study in encroaching, inescapable darkness, it is about a character struggling with what he knows, the inevitability of it, the fear, the anxiety, the crushing humanity of it. It is about a priest dealing with his personal journey to his own Calvary.

The movie opens with Fr. James Lavelle (Gleeson of The Guard and In Bruges fame) hearing confession. We hear someone sit down in the room next to him and the unseen person speaks, telling Father of his abuse at the hands of a priest as a child and how he plans to kill Father Lavelle in one week's time, on a Sunday, on the beach. Odd news to say the least and not being any sort of formal confession, he is unsure what to do with the knowledge. It is clear that he knows who it is, even if we don't. What comes next is following Father Lavelle through the course of the subsequent week.

There is no formalized plot. We know how it begins and how one of the characters intends on committing murder. The rest of it is watching our central priest struggle with his internal demons while also tending to the parish's small flock. There are not many church-goers in the community, and many of them do not seem like very nice folks. It becomes apparent early on that this is not meant to be indicative of life in a small Irish town, it is a stylized realism that is meant to point everything towards Father Lavelle's journey.

The movie is laced with pitch black humor that will give you reason to chuckle, but this really isn't a funny movie, nor is it much fun. The is a thick blanket of melancholy covering all of the proceedings, making this a very morose film. With that said, there is no denying that this is a good movie. It is interesting to watch the man's journey from the revelation through to the end when final reasoning is revealed.

Calvary is sharp tongued, insightful, and fascinating look at a man of faith struggling to deal with his lot in life. It can be seen as a journey through the five stages of grief, shown through his interactions with members of the flock. It can also be seen as a version of the stations, of the cross, following Father Lavelle to his crucifixion on Calvary. This is most likely to format as faith plays a big part in the film, with the idea that faith can be driven by a fear of death. We watch as he deals, or fails to deal, with certain things before resigning himself to a fate where he is to die for the sins committed by others, something of a penance by proxy.

Brendan Gleeson is the heart and soul of Calvary, carrying the entire film on his back, appearing in virtually every scene and being required to be that personal draw for the audience. The actor has a very expressive face that seems to carry in it the weight of the world. It is a strong performance that is not to be ignored.While the majority of the characters are little more than types for Lavelle to interact with, it is Gleeson's portrayal goes a lot deeper. This is, simply put, his movie, putting into action the words and direction of writer/director John Michael McDonagh (following up The Guard, which also featured Brendan Gleeson).

This is a movie that is well worth discovering as it unfolds its tale of faith and death, its journey to an inevitable conclusion. It left me choked up, sitting in silence as the credits quietly began to role. It is not something that I had expected, although I really did not know what to expect going in. The results are personal and likely interpreted differently with different eyes, but there is no denying there is something powerful to be found here.

Highly Recommended.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


Post a Comment