In a confessional, a parishioner talks to small town priest Father James (Brendan Gleeson) about his childhood sexual abuse by a priest. He says he will kill James the next Sunday, because James is a good man and it would be worse and more disconcerting for the Catholic Church than killing a bad priest; in any case the offender has already died. Deeply troubled and conflicted about how to respond, Father James tries to go on with his calling through that week. However, that proves impossible as he is confronted with a troubling variety of spiritual challenges from both his estranged daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly) who recently attempted suicide and his own parishioners. In those dispiriting struggles, Father James’ life begins to fall apart during the week as time runs out towards a confrontation that seems to crystallize his values and what he wants his life to be…

Tim Griersen of Screen International praises Gleeson for his performance and the film, calling it “A rich character drama that’s equally eloquent and despairing, “Calvary” carries a weary resignation that feels lived-in and deeply considered.” He cautions that the film might prove to be a hard sell as it examines religious faith and does not fit in an easily marketable genre. Praising “Calvary” for its treatment of its weighty thematic elements, Lauren Ely for First Things wrote, “Is it possible for a film to capture the horror of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church while at the same time presenting a case for the necessity of the institutional priesthood? Against all odds, this is exactly what Irish director John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary manages to do.” In his review, cultural commentator Fr. Robert Barron writes that the film “shows, with extraordinary vividness, what authentic spiritual shepherding looks like and how it feels for a priest to have a shepherd’s heart.” “Calvary” tackles global issues with both humor, intelligence, and sensitivity even if the main topic is a truly difficult one. Being abused by a priest, a person representing God, Jesus an the Holy Spirit and also a person with “direct” contact with the higher power, is of course a deceit of big proportions. A true abuse of power and trust and not something to be taken lightly. We have heard too many upsetting stories the past years of this specific topic and yet it seems that the Church keep on backing up their own and not taking proper action to solve the issue. Brendan Gleeson is magnificent as Father James and the intriguing and strange character gallery (all doing a great job as well) he confront in his daily work helps to keep up a fantastic dynamic in the movie. It´s always a treat to the lovely and talented Kelly Reilly, but I think she should´ve gotten a bit more screen time in “Calvary”. All in all this is a touching, difficult, funny, different and well made movie by John Michael McDonagh. (4 out of 5)

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