Calvary

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 8.38.23 PM
Calvary (John Michael McDonaugh, 2014)

Nothing really happens in this movie in terms of gripping drama outside of the sense of impending doom befalling the main character. Thanks to Gleeson’s classic ‘honest man’ performance (as Father James an Irish priest), it’s enough to keep me interested, but not much beyond that. John Michael McDonaugh certainly doesn’t showcase any of his brother’s (Martin McDonaugh) wry and sizzling dark comedy, or the ability to handle supporting characters. Most of the individuals populating the film are simply there as an annoyance or saving grace to Father James. Calvary as a whole stems from the line of films which start out with an incredible opening with deeply philosophical context which in this case is a confession booth where a man who was raped by a priest as a child vows to murder Father James, and due to the gargantuan task of actually discussing such a topic with depth and grace, the film fills its many gaping voids with really beautiful shots of the Irish coastal side. Panning shots can only help so much however, and the film always seems to be tap-dancing around its philosophy rather than tackling it head-on. There are many small bits of conversation which are great, and as the film reaches its apex with 40 minutes to go, the darker side of Father James’s nature as well as the towns nature rears its ugly head. The buildup to the end of the film is beautifully set, and anchored by an assured Brendan Gleeson, we expect something fantastic. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a whimper of an ending. What do we really learn by the end of the film through the final dialogue between James and the booth confessor?… By the way, the “booth confessor” is obvious from the moment you meet him 20 minutes into the film (there’s no sneaky fake voice to throw you off like in The Usual Suspects). While I believe it posed a great dilemma and provided some deep insights into the trouble of both the confessor as well as Father James, I was left with a ‘so what?’ expression on my face, instead of the smirk and satisfaction I got from the incredible ending of John Michael McDonaugh’s more talented brother’s dark comedy-thriller In Bruges.

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