Produced by Reprisal Films and The Irish Film Board
Directed and written by John Michael McDonagh
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
In his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), James Joyce has the father of his protagonist, Stephen Daedalus, bitterly complain of the Irish people, “We are an unfortunate priest-ridden race and always were and always will be till the end of the chapter.” In Simon Daedalus’ estimation, the nation’s clergy had so abused their spiritual and temporal power that they had paralyzed the Irish citizenry. Joyce agreed with his character. That’s why he left Dublin for the Continent in 1912, never to return. A century later, the Emerald Isle boasts a laity who feel free to spew vulgarity and profanity in their priests’ faces. Or so John McDonagh would have us believe.
His new film, Calvary, so exults in assailing the clergy that you may feel it not in vain to invoke the Lord’s name now and again to ward off divine retribution just for having witnessed such a generalized calumny.
To get the ball rolling, McDonagh begins with a close up of Father Lavelle (the burly, impassive Brendan Gleeson) waiting in his confessional for his next penitent. Upon arriving, this soul does something wholly unexpected. Forgoing...