Viennale 2014 – Day 6: Calvary

Ireland | UK 2014
Written by John Michael McDonagh
Directed by John Michael McDonagh

Despite having been raised a catholic, I’m not a religious person. I don’t go to church, I don’t pray, and I don’t believe in some sort of benevolent higher power (though I’d call myself rather an agnostic than a flat-out atheist). Which is why “Calvary” was such an interesting viewing experience for me, since it forced me to reconsider my rather cynical view on religion, and especially the church.

Mind you, “Calvary” didn’t make a reformed catholic out or me or anything. It’s also less about (organized) religion than it is about faith in general. What it did, though, was to show the good that religion and the church can do, without glossing over the bad. Quite on the contrary, in fact, since the child abuse by a priest is what ultimately sets the whole plot in motion – and that’s also not the only downside of organized religion/the catholic church that gets addressed. Thanks to Father James, though, who – while a heavy drinker – is what I would consider a good priest (not forcing his religion on other people, but being there for them when they need him, helping them in their time of need), “Calvary” finally – after I don’t know how long, and despite all those atrocities, archaic viewpoints and intolerance against alternative lifestyles – made me see some value in religion, and even the catholic church, again.

“Calvary” is extremely well made, written and shot. It features some beautiful irish landscapes, many humorous moments and dialogues, a beautiful (tearjerking) score, quite a few touching scenes (especially the wonderful, perfect ending), and great performances all around, with Brendan Gleeson – as expected – a particular standout (special mention also has to go out to the ever-wonderful Kelly Reilly, though). My only two quibbles with it: Pretty much from the beginning, I had a strong suspicion of who the potential killer was – which turned out to be 100% correct. And as great as “Calvary” is when it comes to painting a balanced picture of religion, the church, and priests, it does a rather lousy job depicting atheists, who mostly come off as extremely cynical, impolite and unpleasant, constantly mocking Father James and his beliefs. You know, not all “heathens” are total jerks. So, that was a little too exaggerated and preachy for me. Other than that, “Calvary” is a great, touching movie, that at least partially managed to restore my faith in, well, faith – which is no small feat.


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4 Responses to Viennale 2014 – Day 6: Calvary

  1. thycriticman says:

    I’m with you on the “raised as a Catholic, but not exactly a Catholic” kind of thing. I don’t believe in much. Except Santa!

    I’ve heard mixed reviews on this one. Yet I am glad to see you give it a high score as it sounds like something fresh and exciting! I will certainly be viewing it whenever I get the chance!

    • Not sure I would call it particulary fresh. It’s rather conventional. But IMHO, the story is very well told. And I appreciate movies that make me think about and/or challenge my (mis)conceptions. It bears mentioning however that I haven’t seen “The Guard” yet, which is held in far higher regard. It’s possible that if I would have seen it first, I would have approached this with higher expectations. And, as we all know: Expectation can be a real bitch ;-).

  2. Pingback: Calvary (2014) | kalafudra's Stuff

  3. Pingback: My 25 favorite movies of 2014 | A life in 24 fps

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