John Michael McDonagh’s ‘Calvary’ is a tip of the hat to ‘Father Ted’ and maybe just a little nod of the head to the weird and wonderful ‘League of Gentlemen’ (Aiden Gillen’s character even having a passing resemblance to Reece Shearsmith). Overridingly though, it’s a darkly comic whodunit that examines the apparently decreasing role and relevance of the Catholic church in today’s society, along the way.
The Catholic priest has often been treated with a degree of derision throughout the history of the motion picture. One conjures up images of the old Hollywood, drunken Irish buffoon, swigging from his hip flask, wittering away to anyone that will listen, but in Father James Lavelle (portrayed wonderfully by Brendan Gleeson) we see a very different kind of priest, still much derided and in this case held accountable for all of the historic wrong-doings of the Catholic church, but a man of integrity and a heart-felt belief in what is right and good; a man whose parish unfortunately for him, is a truly representative microcosm of a very troubled society’s ills and ‘sins.’
With the clock ticking down to Father Lavelle’s own personal D-day, we scrutinise a rather bizarre array of odd local characters to identify a would-be killer, each with their own troubles and each with a sneering disdain for the church for one reason or another, yet each with an underlying, deep-rooted need for the compassion and healing that perhaps only spirituality in some form, can provide; more maybe than they realise?
Set along the rugged and beautiful, wind-swept coastline of rural Ireland, Calvary is a story of coming to terms with our issues, acceptance and more importantly forgiveness and the fact that, whilst perhaps organised, rule and fear-driven religion is an outdated concept today, many of its sympathetic and poignant teachings remain as relevant as they ever were and ever will be.
Amen to that.