Film Review: The Catholic Priest on the Road to ‘Calvary’

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

CHICAGO – The title of the film, “Calvary,” should have resonance to any guilty Catholic out there, and yet the loaded word can’t deliver the truth that the film seeks. Brendan Gleeson gives an astonishing performance as a conflicted priest, but the material he has to work with is not up to his portrayal.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

Essentially the territory mined is nothing new, as the sins of humanity are on display while the priest makes his journey. Even the intriguing twists – like the priest having a daughter from his former life – don’t really pay off. The writer/director John Michael McDonagh gets points for conceiving the thesis of the narrative, but the points are subtracted one by one as the story fleshed out from this thesis is revealed. While it might be more substantial to people who have wondered about the strange and Irish meanderings of the Catholic Church, to insiders it might feel like either an indictment or I’ve-heard-that-song-before.

Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is hearing confessions at his church in a small Irish town. A parishioner enters the confessional, and tells the priest that in one week’s time he is going to kill him, for the sins of another priest’s sexual abuse perpetuated on the confessor when he was a child. He recommends that James gets his affairs in order.

Not knowing exactly what to do, James goes through with a planned visit from his daughter (Kelly Reilly) – he joined the priesthood as a widower – who has just attempted suicide. Their visit is a reconciliation of sorts, but James doesn’t find comfort with it, even as he consults his Bishop on the situation. The priest spends the week on the road to his own Calvary (the designation where Jesus was crucified), leading to the identity of his perpetrator.

“Calvary” continued its limited release in Chicago on August 8th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, Owen Sharpe and M. Emmet Walsh. Written and directed by John Michael McDonough. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Calvary”

Brendan Gleeson
Father James (Brendan Gleeson) in ‘Calvary’
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “Calvary”

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