Calvary tells the story of a priest, living in a small isolated community in Ireland. He is told in confession by one of his flock, that he is going to kill him in a week. This overwhelmingly good man is held to blame for the wrong doings of the Catholic Church. As the days pass away the tension builds, leaving the audience to question every one of the complex characters.
John McDonagh makes his second directorial feature after the critically acclaimed film The Guard (2011). McDonagh provides an incredible screenplay for both films, laced with amazingly dry humour throughout. But Calvary is considerably more polished, bravely challenging very dark issues in a masterful way. However, it is not just the script that is amazing. This film is beautifully shot too, capturing the mood of the environment as much as the dark characters within it.
What we get is a tense character drama that has a beautifully blended cast. The brilliant Brendan Gleeson, gives a spectacular performance playing the lead role – Father James. Gleeson worked with John McDonagh in The Guard. Clearly these guys work well together. It is a treat to watch the masterful Gleeson effortlessly play this role. It is amazing that both McDonagh and Gleeson did not come away with Academy awards for this powerful performance.
The rest of the cast all give exceptional portrayals of their complex characters. Kelly Reilly plays the tragic suicidal daughter of Father James, giving a suitably fragile performance. Chris O'Dowd and Dylan Moran are brilliant, tackling roles very different from their usual styles. Aiden Gillen from Game of Thrones has a number of great scenes with Gleeson in the pub. But which one of these multi-layered difficult characters is the killer?
Overall, Calvary is a brutally honest story that keeps the audience second-guessing. But the finale does not leave you hanging for answers in any way. I was totally engrossed in this film, and can not wait for Gleeson and McDonagh to work together again. A brilliant dark comedy that is a must watch for everyone.
Update: Unfortunately, Calvary is no longer available on Netflix. You can rent it on Amazon but it is not included with the Prime subscription.