calvaryThe Question Of The Ages
Stars: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Dylan Moran, Aidan Gillen, M. Emmet Walsh, Domhnall Gleeson and David Wilmot
Director/Scriptwriter: John Michael McDonagh
Cinematographer: Larry Smith
Composer: Patrick Cassidy
Fox Searchlight
Rating: R for violence and language
Running Length:101 minutes
The name of this film, “Calvary,” could be misleading. Is it the name of a town? Someone’s personal name? If you guessed Biblical reference, you would be close to being correct, as this “Calvary” has to do with a priest and a burden he carries for seven days. Brendan Gleeson is Father James, who is the priest of a small Irish town, where apathy certainly is present. The cast has a variety of characters and each with a problem they bring to the priest, before or after they visit the local pub. Some problems are minor and some are major..
Father James hears a confession that someone was abused by a priest years ago and decides, now, to kill a priest in return---that priest being Father James.  What to do? In the meantime, whether to ask for help (breaking a vow) or not. After consultation with another priest, Father James goes to the police who  are only mildly interested.. Perhaps the threat wasn't meant to be serious, but a joke. Father James daughter, Fiona (Kelly Reilly) comes to visit. The town is curious…how can a priest have a daughter?  Answer: he was married and his wife died, then he entered the priesthood. Fiona has her own problems. During the week, we see what Father James deals with in this small town. The catholic church is shown as not being perfect, but trying to help. Within the town is wife beating, infidelity, alcoholism, mental problems and the church burning. Someone has a vendetta and the clock is ticking.
There are three stories here. The first, Father James, the priest who tries to help people who don't seem to want it, including his daughter. Second, Fiona, Father James' daughter who comes to visit with her own problems of forgiveness. Why did he leave to become a priest?  Third, that of the person who wants to kill Father James and circles him like a wolf on the prowl. 
Brendan Gleeson, usually portraying a tough character, does well as the priest who tries to help his town. Forgiveness is important. With a patient countenance, he tries to do what is right. Chris O’Dowd, seen in television’s “Moone Boy," has a serious role as part of a troubled marriage.
Set against the sea, “Calvary” could mean that water washes away sins and cleanses in the process.  Drinking water could help, too, as alcohol is a problem in the town. The problems of the church including slowness to discipline priests is mentioned. As in any location, there are good people and bad people and you try to wend your way through the maze. In the Biblical reference, as with Christ, do you face the end of this particular time and someone’s judgment, or, as with Peter, do you deny and flee. The question of the ages.
Copyright 2014 Marie Asner
For another Brendan Gleeson film review, see the following:
Albert Nobbs