Cavalry: *****

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Synopsis: In Sligo, Ireland, Father James (Gleeson) discovers that one of his congregation, who was abused by another priest, intends to kill him within a week. If that wasn’t enough for him to contemplate, he has his daughter (Reilly), who has recently attempted suicide, and  a range of locals who have differing reasons to hate the Catholic Church to deal with at the same time.

 

After making his debut with the hilarious comedy The Guard, director John McDonagh returns with another piece of genius filmmaking.

 

Brendan Gleeson also returns for the ride as the protagonist Father James, a priest in rural Ireland who is surprised by a death threat one morning as he takes confession. His performance he is a bit more somber and not as outrageous as his character in The Guard. Not to say that he does not have some cracking one liners.

 

As Gleeson spends what may be his final days tending to his villagers in a variety of ways, Calvary comes together as a terrific medley of tones and styles. It’s got the black comedy that’s been at the core of Irish writing for centuries, but also offers a deadly serious examination of faith and compassion.

 

He is supported by a range of Irish comedic actors from Chris O’Dowd’s disturbed butcher, Dylan Moran’s depressed banker and Aidan Gillen’s atheist doctor. All displaying some sort of crazy characteristics, that it is a wonder how Gleeson’s priest is so down to earth and calm considering how he has to deal with the madness around him.

 

While Kelly Reilly, gives a terrific performance as James’ troubled daughter who is trying to reconcile with her father.

 

There are two layers of tone to the script. It is a dark comedy, but has surprisingly few laughs. That is not to say that is a flaw, as the drama and characterisation blend well within the structure.

 

Beautifully written and wonderfully performed. Calvary may not be as funny as The Guard. But with the emotional punch it makes, the film is better than McDonagh’s debut.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

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