If you absolutely hate the Catholic Church with all your being, then this film is for you…otherwise, I can’t see much of reason to see this one.
Aside from some fine acting by Brendan Gleeson, I can’t see a whole lot to recommend this film to the average viewer. However, if you have been hurt by the Catholic Church and just want to see a random priest killed, then perhaps you’ll enjoy Calvary.
The film begins with a priest, Father Lavelle (Gleeson) in the confessional about to listen to someone’s confession. However, instead of asking forgiveness, the person on the other side tells the priest that he was molested as a child by a priest–and for that, he was going to murder Father Lavelle–even though Lavelle didn’t do it and the man admits that the Father isn’t the perpetrator. And, for the rest of the film, you see the priest trying to do his job in perhaps the most hellish town on Earth. Almost everyone in this town is evil or miserable. In fact, after a while, it almost made me laugh because it was such a one-dimensional and almost cartoonish place.
And, none of it really made any sense. There’s the rich jerk who invites the priest over and then proceeds to piss all over one of his expensive paintings. Then, there’s the old writer who wants the priest to give him a gun so he can shoot himself.
And, there are lots of other lovely folks–including an openly gay priest who hangs out with a guy who constantly mocks God (???), an angry perverted doctor, a cannibal (yes, a cannibal) as well as the priest’s suicidal daughter (he became a priest after his wife died). No one in the town seems decent or real–all are angry and spend the entire movie mocking God and Father Lavelle. Ultimately, by the end of the film, the guy at the beginning returns and blows the priest’s brains out in a very vivid scene. I normally don’t insert spoilers, but the scene is so vivid and gruesome that I think you need to be forewarned.
My only way to make sense of all this is that the folks making this film truly despise the Catholic Church. I myself am not Catholic and am angry at the way this organization covered up years of peadophile priests–and would love to see more films that address this.
But, this does not mean that I’d take pleasure at seeing a priest brutally murdered for my entertainment! I cannot even imagine most atheists enjoying this!! The bottom line is that I kept watching and hoping it would all make sense–the one-dimensional characters, the anger and the threat to kill the man. But, ultimately, the film just seemed to take pleasure in nihilism and awfulness. And, I keep wondering WHO is the audience for Calvary?! Rarely have I seen a film this offensive and seemingly pointless. Perhaps I’m missing something … but I doubt it.
Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer