I hope the Brendon Gleeson-led all-star cast of “Calvary” brings the audiences Calvary deserves. It is one of the most complex, provocative and thoughtful assessments of the aftermath of the Roman Catholic Church’s abuse scandals as has been offered in any medium, and one of the most balanced putting as it does an innocent and wonderful priest at the center of a small Irish town wracked by all the troubles one could imagine for any such village in the aftermath of Ireland’s epic economic collapse which occurred contemporaneously with the shudders of the abuse scandal in that country and across the globe. It will not cheer you up or do anything other than oblige you to consider points of view that you perhaps haven’t –those of the victims, those of the innocent and especially those of the good priest laboring to do his job in the midst of the fallout of the awful evil.
“Calvary” is the kind of film that leaves a theater silent at the final credits,” wrote Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput in his review of the movie, and that is exactly how our theater reacted. “Calvary” has an understated power – a blend of everyday pain, faith, despair, humor, candor, bitterness, and forgiveness,” Chaput continued, “that brands itself onto the heart with spare simplicity.”
“It’s also the best portrayal of a good priest in impossible circumstances I’ve seen in several decades,” he added.
He is right on every point, and he leaves much to be discovered by the movie goer as is right. But among many heart-breaking scenes are two –one where the priest played by Gleeson chats with a young girl walking along a road only to be confronted by an angry father, and another where Aiden Gillen (Game of Throne’s “Little Finger,” here playing an atheist doctor) recounts a story central to his denial of the existence of God– which pack enormous wallops into scant minutes.
Gleeson ought to receive many nominations for his work in the film, though the subject matter may keep crowds away. Whatever your point of view on faith and the Catholic Church, go and see it.