Calvary (film)

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Calvary
A priest standing by the shore, a wave crashing behind him.
Movie poster
Directed by John Michael McDonagh
Produced by
  • Chris Clark
  • Flora Fernandez-Marengo
  • James Flynn
Written by John Michael McDonagh
Starring
Music by Patrick Cassidy
Cinematography Larry Smith
Edited by Chris Gill
Production
companies
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Momentum Pictures
Release date
  • 19 January 2014 (2014-01-19) (Sundance)
  • 11 April 2014 (2014-04-11)
Running time
101 minutes[1][2]
Country
  • Ireland
  • United Kingdom[3]
Language English
Box office $16.9 million[4]

Calvary is a 2014 Irish drama film written and directed by John Michael McDonagh. It stars Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran and Isaach de Bankolé. The film began production in September 2012 and was released in April 2014[5] in Ireland and the United Kingdom, in July in Australia and August 2014 in the United States. The film was screened at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival[6] and at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival.[7]

Plot[edit]

In a dark Catholic confessional, an unseen man tells Father James he was horribly sexually abused as a child by a priest, promising to kill James at the beach the next Sunday (James being a good man whose death will impact the church more than would that of an abusive priest). James has a week to arrange his affairs. His bishop leaves it to James to decide whether to notify the police. James' daughter Fiona has attempted suicide after feeling abandoned following her mother’s death and her father’s entry into the priesthood. Their rapprochement is a principal theme of the film.

Local butcher Jack Brennan has hit his unfaithful wife, Veronica, and James confronts him. Jack denies it, blaming Veronica’s African lover, Simon. James goes about his pastoral duties, and obtains a revolver for an elderly American writer who is contemplating suicide to thwart senile decay.

Millionaire Michael Fitzgerald’s family has deserted him and he feels directionless and detached from reality. At the hospital, following a car crash, James performs the last rites for the French driver, and comforts the widow, Teresa. She stoically accepts her husband's fate, believing premature death unfair only if the victim has never felt real love. James visits Freddie Joyce in jail, a killer who ate his female victims and now, asking for forgiveness, cannot recall where one particular victim is buried. James accuses him of insincerity, saying if God cannot understand Freddie, nobody can. Through James's dealings with Freddie, Michael, another potential suicide (Milo), Teresa and Fiona, the film reflects on guilt, sin, virtue, depression and suicide.

That night, James witnesses the burning down of his church. He later tells Veronica he will never abandon her, spiritually at least, and she reciprocates. Finding his dog dead with its throat cut, he buries it, weeping, but keeps the death from his daughter the next morning as she leaves. Walking a country lane, James chats innocently with a young girl when the father drives up, grabs the girl and crudely questions James’s motives. At the pub, the doctor/pathologist tells James a horrifying story about a small child rendered deaf, mute, paralyzed and blind after botched anaesthesia, and contemplates the ineffable terror of such sensory isolation. James, angered, gets drunk, argues with cynical publican Brendan Lynch and empties the revolver into the furnishings. Brendan wields a baseball bat and later, a beaten-up James is recovering at home. He violently berates his house guest, Father Leary who, offended, leaves the next morning. James decides to fly to Dublin, but returns from the airport after meeting Teresa and seeing her husband's coffin by the aircraft. Heading to the beach on the fateful Sunday, James chats with the ageing writer en route, then by phone to Fiona, saying sin is considered too much and virtue not enough. He stresses the importance of forgiveness and they forgive one another.

After James throws his revolver into the sea, a distressed Michael walks up and James promises to visit him. Later, the altar boy, painting a seascape at the top of the beach, witnesses James waiting on the beach as Jack Brennan strides along the shore towards James, a revolver outstretched. Jack confesses to the arson and to hitting Veronica but denies killing the dog. Jack, hearing that James shed tears over his dog, asks if he cried similarly over news reports concerning children abused by priests. James says no, he had felt detached from such stories—whereupon the enraged Jack shoots James in the side. The boy runs towards them but James shouts at him to flee. Jack says it is too late to stop, telling James to say his prayers. When James says he already has, Jack delivers a mortal shot to the priest's head.

In brief tableaux, we see the parishioners and Teresa going about their quotidian lives. The final scene ends as Fiona visits Jack in prison, each tentatively picking up a telephone handset to talk across the intervening glass panel.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

McDonagh conceived the idea for Calvary and wrote the screenplay while filming The Guard with Gleeson in late 2009. McDonagh explained the intentions he had for the film: "There are probably films in development about priests which involve abuse. My remit is to do the opposite of what other people do, and I wanted to make a film about a good priest." He elaborates that it is tonally "in the same darkly comedic vein as The Guard, but with a much more serious and dramatic narrative."[13] Gleeson's casting was announced in October 2011.[13] The casting of Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly and Aidan Gillen was announced in February 2012,[9] while further casting was announced in August 2012.[11]

Principal photography[edit]

Filming began on 24 September 2012.[10] The production spent three weeks shooting in and around County Sligo primarily in the town of Easkey where the film is set and also on the Streedagh beach in north county Sligo, with some shooting in Ardgillan Castle Balbriggan Dublin followed by two weeks of filming in Rush, Dublin.[11]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Calvary had its world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.[6] Fox Searchlight secured distribution rights for the US and select international territories.[14] Calvary made its European premiere at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival[7] and its Irish premiere as the gala opening of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival on 13 February 2014.[15] The film earned $16.9 million worldwide.[4]

Critical response[edit]

Calvary received positive reviews from critics and has a "certified fresh" score of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 144 reviews with an average rating of 7.6 out of 10. The critical consensus states "Led by a brilliant performance from Brendan Gleeson, Calvary tackles weighty issues with humour, intelligence, and sensitivity."[16] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 77 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews".[17]

Justin Chang of Variety magazine praised Gleeson for his soulful performance, called the film a "masterful follow-up to The Guard", and predicted near-certain critical plaudits into a distinguished arthouse reception for the film.[18] Tim Griersen of Screen International also praised Gleeson for his performance and the film, calling it "A rich character drama that's equally eloquent and despairing, Calvary carries a weary resignation that feels lived-in and deeply considered." He cautions that the film might prove to be a hard sell as it examines religious faith and does not fit in an easily marketable genre.[1] Xan Brooks of the Guardian comments on the self-referential nature of the film, and also calls the film "terrific (at least until the denouement, when it rather strains for grandeur)". Brooks gives the film 4/5.[19]

Praising Calvary for its treatment of its weighty thematic elements, Lauren Ely for First Things wrote: "Is it possible for a film to capture the horror of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church while at the same time presenting a case for the necessity of the institutional priesthood? Against all odds, this is exactly what Irish director John Michael McDonagh's Calvary manages to do."[20]

In his review, cultural commentator Fr. Robert Barron writes that the film "shows, with extraordinary vividness, what authentic spiritual shepherding looks like and how it feels for a priest to have a shepherd's heart."[21]

Awards[edit]

Award Date of Ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
British Independent Film Awards December 7, 2014 Best British Independent Film Calvary Nominated [22]
Best Director John Michael McDonagh Nominated
Best Actor Brendan Gleeson Won
Best Screenplay John Michael McDonagh Nominated
Berlin International Film Festival February 17, 2014 Prize of the Ecumenical Jury Calvary Won [23]
European Film Awards December 13, 2014 European Actor Brendan Gleeson Nominated [24]
Irish Film and Television Awards April 5, 2014 Best Film Calvary Won [25]
Best Lead Actor - Film Brendan Gleeson Won
Best Screenplay - Film John Michael McDonagh Won
Best Director - Film John Michael McDonagh Nominated
Best Supporting Actress - Film Orla O'Rourke Nominated
Best Original Score Patrick Cassidy Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Tim Grierson (20 January 2014). "Calvary". Screen International. 
  2. ^ "CALVARY | British Board of Film Classification". Bbfc.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-08-17. 
  3. ^ http://lumiere.obs.coe.int/web/film_info/?id=47115
  4. ^ a b "Calvary". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 26 September 2015. 
  5. ^ "Brendan Gleeson Gets Threatened For Being Too Nice In Calvary Trailer". CinemaBlend.com. Retrieved 2014-08-17. 
  6. ^ a b "'Calvary' & 'The Last Days of Peter Bergmann' join 'Frank' at Sundance 2014". Film Ireland. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "| Berlinale | Archive | Annual Archives | 2014 | Programme - Calvary". Berlinale.de. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  8. ^ Kemp, Stuart (9 February 2012). "Berlin 2012: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd and Aidan Gillen Sign Up for John Michael McDonagh's 'Calvary'". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c d Tartaglione, Nancy (9 February 2012). "Protagonist To Proffer John Michael McDonagh's 'Calvary': Berlin". deadline.com. Retrieved 10 February 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Hall, Eva (3 October 2012). "John Michael McDonagh's 'Calvary' Begins Filming as Dylan Moran Joins Cast". iftn.ie. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Cummins, Steve (23 August 2012). "Exclusive: John Michael McDonagh Confirms 'Calvary' Production Date". iftn.ie. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  12. ^ Kemp, Stuart (2 October 2012). "'Calvary': Dylan Moran, Marie Josée Crozé and Isaach De Bankolé Join the John Michael McDonagh Film". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Lyttleton, Oliver (21 October 2011). "'The Guard' Writer/Director John Michael McDonagh Reteaming With Brendan Gleeson For Drama 'Calvary'". blogs.indiewire.com. Retrieved 10 February 2012. around the same mark as the $7m budget 
  14. ^ "Sundance Update: Fox Searchlight Lands Brendan Gleeson Pic ‘Calvary’". Deadline.com. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  15. ^ "Irish film Calvary to open Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014". Joe.ie. 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  16. ^ "Calvary". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-08-17. 
  17. ^ "Calvary Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2014-08-17. 
  18. ^ Justin Chang (20 January 2014). "Sundance Film Review: ‘Calvary’". Variety. 
  19. ^ Xan Brooks (20 January 2014). "Calvary: Sundance 2014 – first look review". Guardian [UK]. 
  20. ^ Ely, Lauren. "The Scandal of Calvary". www.firstthings.com. First Things. Retrieved 10 August 2014. 
  21. ^ Barron, Robert. ""CALVARY" AND A PORTRAIT OF A REAL PRIEST". www.wordonfire.org. Word on Fire Article. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  22. ^ "Keira Knightly and Benedict Cumberbatch among British Independent Film nominees". Daily Mail. November 3, 2014. Retrieved November 3, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Irish film CALVARY wins independent jury award at the Berlin Film Festival". Irish Film Board. February 17, 2014. Retrieved December 13, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Brendan Gleeson Nominated For 2014 European Film Award". IFTN. November 11, 2014. Retrieved December 13, 2014. 
  25. ^ "IFTA 2014 WINNERS". IFTA Academy. Retrieved December 13, 2014. 

External links[edit]