Monday, August 25, 2014

Calvary (John Michael McDonagh, 2014): Trying to be a Good Man


Calvary is a brilliant, powerful film. I've seen some people complaining about there not being enough comedy in it. But this is not like The Guard at all, it's a serious and disturbing drama. I laughed a couple of times but they were black, black laughs. What got to me most was the whole atmosphere of disrespect for the priest played by Brendan Gleeson. He's such a decent man, but his parishioners seem to have nothing but contempt for him. The picture it paints of Ireland is an exaggeration for sure but I know plenty of Irish people who are a bit similar to the characters here, doing anything they can to prove they're not under the thumb of the church. And I don't think I've ever seen a film that made me feel so sorry for its leading man. To me it said something profoundly moving about trying to be good in a modern world where it's fashionable to sneer at goodness, and everyone is supposed to just be concerned with their own pleasure (and where the Catholic church as a whole is mocked and despised because of a small percentage of bad priests). I've noticed that the reviews of the film outside Ireland have been much stronger than those inside it. I wonder if people there are offended by the bleak picture it paints of their country. But to me that side of it is immaterial. I don't take it as representative. All I care about is that as DRAMA it's astonishing.

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