Calvary is a simple and straight story of an Irish priest who receives a death threat. The murderer informs Father James through the confession booth that he had been sexually harassed by a priest when he was a kid and how it had unchangeable effects on him. He says that the priest is dead now but there’s only one way for him to revenge, to kill a good priest who in this case is Father James. The murderer offers next Sunday by the beach.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead]
The movie consists of some tiny plots like James being involved with the lives of community members and his daughter who is visiting him from Dublin. The story works simultaneously on three levels:
1) James’s personal life and the relationship with his daughter
2) James’s facing with contrasts and pressures on him in the town
3) Searching for the murderer
John Michael McDonagh’s deep yet straight script moves so steadily. There are some high points for example the burning of the church and the one in which James has a conversation with a girl and the final act where James and the murderer meet. The movie’s screenplay is brilliant in many ways. First of all, it is minimal. We are with James all the time, following him around the town. The brilliant point is that we get involved with James’s feelings and problems but we interact with the third part, searching for the murderer, on our own. James is not worried or scared. He welcomes death and he has nothing to lose but we as the audience can’t let that idea go. We start to guess. Is it the atheist Doctor? The angry mechanic? And so on.
The final scene is amazingly strong. As soon as our questions about the identity of the murderer are answered, we are facing a strong back and forth conversation, a beautifully pictured scene, and calculated shots which brings us in the middle.
In the end, Brendan Gleeson performed masterfully in this movie. You can’t imagine this elegant inward yet extroverted part to be played by someone else. Gleeson in Calvary is putting his life experience into the role. He perfectly knows how to be a good-hearted priest who can lose control in a second; When he is communicating with a little girl who her father shows up and insults him and accuse him of the things he is being killed for, the things he has never done nor understood.