“Calvary”: Chaos and possible redemption

“Calvary” is a profound, even allegorical, examination of modern human conditions. My movie buddy and I attended because Brendan Gleeson, playing the priest, is a wonderful actor.

The only really bad thing about “Calvary” is the hype being used to sell tickets. On the way to the movies, having seen the confusing ads, we were hoping for another madcap comedy like “Waking Ned Devine” but worried, since the main character is a priest, that we might be going to a “gotcha” church-financed Christian faith-triumphs- over- reality morality play. The hype is completely misleading and the movie is neither funny nor fake. There’s precious little to laugh at. The Church isn’t praised, but takes a drubbing on money grubbing, pedophilia, and/or Nazi collaboration from almost everybody with a speaking part in the movie.

We attended, despite the hype.

During a confessional, at the beginning of the movie and before the credits, a parishioner says that he will murder the priest the following Sunday. We follow the priest through the week.

He lives and works in a small town on the coast of Ireland. The seascapes and landscapes in the film are very worthwhile (stay for the credits as there are more breathtaking pictures during the credits). The people the priest encounters may be a little bit overstated, but that’s important to the story and the ordinary, understated people of life are passed over.

Every person in the movie has a story that contributes to the overall experience. Most of them live in chaos; so much so that even the priest, who has plenty of problems of his own, seems to be a gravitational center for all that whirls around him.

By the time they get to the middle, some might think the movie a little bit slow. It has no vampires, sex, violence or special effects. But wading in deep waters is necessarily a bit slow, and this movie is very deep indeed. The chaos of the characters extends into the audience. We can’t be sure how we feel about the situation, the priest, or the other characters. We aren’t sure how it will all come out and even how we want it to come out. Like the priest and all the characters, we can’t be sure if we will ever get the answers to all the questions raised.

Viewers will likely be talking and thinking about “Calvary” for some time after they see it. The best solution might be to see it again.


Calvary, 2014, 100 mins., rated R

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Writer: John Michael McDonagh

Stars: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly |


Photo: Calvary movieposter Fair use