"Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved". "Do not presume; one of the
thieves was damned".
This is the quote from St Augustine that introduces us to "Calvary",
writer/director John Michael McDonagh's follow-up to "The Guard". Almost as
soon as the quote fades from the screen we're thrust into a fantastic
opening scene that sets the tone for what's to follow.
Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is taking his usual Sunday confession, on
the other side of the confession box and off screen we hear a man’s voice,
(the voice is known to Father James but his identity is never revealed to
the audience), he tells him, “I first tasted semen when I was 7 years old".
As the camera stays transfixed on the obviously shocked father, he goes on
to confess that over the course of five years he was repeatedly raped by a
priest. This was not Father James doing but he's is the one that will have
to pay the price for the sins of his peers. “I’m going to kill you because
you’re innocent. No one will pay attention if a bad Priest dies but the
death of a good Priest like you that will make everyone notice". Father
James is then given until the following Sunday to put his house in order
and then he has to meet the man on the beach where he is going to die by
What follows is not so much a whodunit, but more like a who’s going to do
it, as Father James goes about his coastal village tending his flock and
trying to come to terms with his impending demise. Unfortunately for The
Father his flock appear more wolf than sheep and each have their own grudge
Could it be local butcher Jack Brennan (O'Dowd) or his drug addicted
adulteress wife Veronica (Orla O'Rourke) or perhaps it could even be her
Ghana-born lover Simon Asamoah (Isaach de Bankolé)? Or could it the rich
banker Michael Fitzgerald (Dylan Moran) or cynical Dr. Frank Harte (Aidan
Gillen)? The list goes on and on. The arrival of The Father's troubled
daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly), Father James is no saint himself, further
muddies the water as his date with destiny quickly approaches.
"Calvary" plays like an old fashioned 50's black and white mystery
thriller. Margaret Lockwood's Agatha Christie wouldn't look out of place in
the Irish village.
Brendan Gleason is fantastic as Father James, he oozes authority and
vulnerability in equal measures and he's nothing short of mesmerising when
on screen. That's not to say that "Calvary" is a one man show, it's not,
each of the cast contribute in their own way to what is without doubt a
fantastic piece of storytelling. The opening act in the confessional box in
terms of setting the scene for what's to follow is perfect and when it does
come the ending is every bit as powerful and emotional as that fantastic
opening. Don't miss.