DVD Review: Calvary
While not overly cheery, Calvary is VERY much worth your time. When a small-town Catholic priest receives a death-threat giving him a week to live, he goes about the normal business of tending to his flock – which pretty much means putting up with a town-full of horrible bastards and all of their problems.
While Calvary has some hefty laughs throughout (I, too, had to look felching up), In Bruges this is not. It’s not even The Guard (though it’s the same writer-director). This has a much sadder tone, a melancholy that I’m already making sound dreadful (it’s not). Father James is a superb character – one that Brendan Gleeson makes feel ridiculously real – and wandering about visiting troubled townsfolk with him is enthralling.
The film cracks straight on with it; after an opening quote from St. Augustine, the death-threat is the very next thing out the gate. Delivered in an uncomfortable shot with no musical sugar-coating, this sets the film up with its mystery and tone right away. What’s cooler, is that our hero knows who it is the whole time; but chooses not to tell anybody, including us. This is followed by a genius device for a film such as this; introducing us to a large chunk of the cast as they take communion.
From there (don’t worry; this won’t continue as a blow-by-blow), his daily encounters cover a wide range of topics – paedophile priests, violence against woman, infidelity, drink and drug use, guns, transgender pornography and a LOT of talk around the subject of death (suicide, old age, serial killing, animal slaughter, war-time killing, accidental death, last rites and so on) – but all in a darkly comic fashion, as unbelievable as that sounds. The snarky performances and the black comedy (from Bernard Black, Chris O’Dowd, M. Emmett Walsh, that Littefinger guy and of course, Brendan Gleeson himself) make it hugely enjoyable and never too grim. Sure, there’s really not a lot of happiness to be found in this bitter bunch, but I like that (despite it being occasionally stressful). It continues to build for the viewer just as it does for Father James, which is always a sign of great film-making.
Perhaps a little heavy on the red herrings (I wasn’t watching for the mystery) and that Leo character is hideous in both of his two minute scenes, but this is an otherwise fascinating study of a good priest and a town that doesn’t really seem to want him there.