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Calvary: No Country for Old Priests

Image by Fox Searchlight Pictures



Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland

Markus Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Rated R for sexual references, language, brief strong violence and some drug use

Now playing at CineArts Santana Row in San Jose, California:

The promise of a Brendan Gleeson performance was enough to get me into my seat, and like a really weird game of Catholic “Clue”, the who-done-it aspect of “Calvary” was enough to have me leaning forward throughout. But it was the savagely satirical script from writer/director John Michael McDonagh which still has me thinking about “Calvary” a day after my viewing.

Opening with a self proclaimed “hell of an opening line”, in a confessional, a “good” Priest (played by Brendan Gleeson) is informed by a mysterious parishioner that he is going to kill said Priest on the following Sunday. The Priest is obviously shocked and confused by this statement and as the mystery man makes his leave, we are left to wonder who would want to kill a Priest; and on a Sunday, no less? This event is then followed by a series of Bunuelian conversations, taking place within the following seven day period, with a series of lively characters in this small Irish town; the conversations touching on the Catholic Church’s stance on faith, capitalism, homosexuality, interracial affairs, child molestation, adultery, forgiveness, suicide, rape and murder, all within a 100 minute runtime.

While this sounds like one of those films thats sole purpose is to bludgeon its audience over the head with uncomfortable subject matter, McDonagh’s script brings forth an unexpectedly high dose of satirical black comedy throughout, which sees characters discussing deeply controversial elements of the Catholic Church with a flippant or comedic undertone. This aspect seriously had me laughing out loud on multiple occasions amidst conversations regarding capitalism, homosexuality, interracial affairs, child molestation, adultery, forgiveness, suicide, rape and murder.

Throughout my incessant script-worshiping diatribe, I have failed to mention the stunning cinematography or the strong supporting performances from Kelly Reilly (Heaven Is for Real) Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) as well as Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) playing brilliantly against type. And now that I have, let’s get back to the script.

Filled with (above all) insightful dialogue, John Michael McDonagh (brother of Martin McDonagh; one of the greatest up and coming writer/directors of the past decade) masterfully swings back and forth between heavy drama and dark comedy, creating a Frankenstein of a comedy, full of visual and social atrocities.

Final Thought: With more symbolism than you can shake a bible at, “Calvary” is a film which is meant to be dissected and redissected…and redissected once again. Understandably, this will not be everyone’s cup of tea, maybe coming off as far too brutal in its satire. That said, “Calvary” is a dark comedy taken to its satirical extreme. It’s like a modern day Luis Bunuel film, with a touch of “High Noon”. It’s my kind of movie.
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