COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 40min

STARRING: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly

Keeping faith: Gleeson

Opening with a close-up of Gleeson’s craggy, imposing face, Calvary hits a deep note of high drama as a male voice quietly informs Gleeson’s County Sligo priest while in confession that he intends to kill him in one week’s time. The sexually violated man, whose identity is known to the unnamed priest but not to the audience, is out for twisted revenge on the Catholic Church by murdering an innocent clergyman.

Not notably rattled, the priest goes about his parish business, which largely consists of ministering impassively to a mixed bag of misfits. As the nexus he feels he needs to be, he’s accountable to a suicidal daughter (Reilly) from his pre-clergy marriage and a malaise-plagued township. Not to mention his potential killer.


Collaborating once again with writer-director John Michael McDonagh (The Guard ), Gleeson is compelling and assured. The priest is a rock upon which waves of menace thunder and crash. But nobody is more vulnerable than a sounding board for others’ hostility and needs. Calvary was the site of Christ’s crucifixion; in McDonagh’s moody and challenging domain, loss of belief is a death in itself.