There’s a lot of festering rage and seething resentment (and rightfully so) directed at the Catholic Church in John Michael McDonagh’s searing drama Calvary. Brendan Gleeson, who is one of our very best actors, goes deep and then some with his anguished portrayal of an Irish priest given one week to live by an unseen voice in his confessional booth. It seems that someone is upset with the kind priest and feels that only the death of a “good priest” can make up for the various sins of the Church as a whole. It’s a heavy movie, graced with some strong jolts of mordant comedy, and there’s an inexorable sense of doom that hangs over the entire picture.
I loved this movie despite it making me very upset at times, especially while experiencing the ending. But the integrity that McDonagh brings to every single scene in this emotionally taxing effort is honest and severe, and if the final moments don’t wrack your nerves then nothing will. This is an absolutely terrific, fully absorbing 100 minutes of cinema with some of the A-1 best dialogue in any film in recent memory. And as far as I’m concerned, this is the heartiest and most galvanizing performance from Gleeson that I’ve seen so far.
Review by Nick Clement