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British Film Review: Calvary
A truly modern and all too rare, awe inspiring drama.
When Father James hears he has been marked for murder during the sanctity of the confession box, it gives him a week to put his affairs in order and make peace with the spiritual and personal conundrum he finds himself thrown into. With a log line this interesting, it is not hard to see why ‘Calvary’ had the potential to develop into such a good drama. The humour is also there, a black, desperate and unforgiving layer which lacerates the film and script throughout in a subversive, shocking way.
Gifted Writer/Director John Michael Mc Donagh’s second feature, ‘Calvary’ is that rare thing in cinema, truly dramatic drama. In recent times the phrase ‘urban drama’ has been coined as a genre tag to suit all contemporary, low - ish budget drama in the UK. However, sadly a lot of examples over the past several years, have just wallowed in boring concepts and themes, and have been set in even duller locations which have helped lose any dramatic structure even more under a murky layer.
Here at last is an observant, informed, intelligent and very modern approach to drama that has resulted in a truly jaw dropping film. Brendan Glesson as the priest gives a layered and fascinating portrait of a man under pressure, and is beautifully supported by the surrounding cast. The back drop of some of the prettiest, purest looking countryside in Ireland is a lovely foil for the darker comedic elements, bleak inner conflicts and exterior events the Priest is forced to work with.
This is a parish and community that seems to, in the main, be about as twisted, depraved and murky as any found in some urban sprawl. There’s murder, death, addiction, adultery, cruelty, drug abuse, illness, along with back stabbing and callousness on a scale that when set against such lovely countryside seems to magnify the conflicts Father James faces in a very clear, shocking way. This informs ‘Calvary’ with a razor sharp observance of the human spirit, illuminates the darker human and spiritual challenges all of us have faced at some time and lends a sense of poignant comedy/tragedy that is truly compelling to watch.
Right from the opening, the action is beautifully directed, as is the characterisation of all the roles, and as the film progresses the tension becomes palpable. At the heart of all good drama is a moral dilemma, which to give away here would spoil the fun, but Mc Donagh has a wonderful grasp of the human clay he works with. He transports us to a world that seems real, yet is magnified into an intense story that is almost grotesque as it lays bare the darker side of life, death and the human spirit. Let the film wash over you and slowly reel you in to the climax. Thought provoking, enjoyable and shocking in equal measure, a must see for drama fans.
CALVARY is out on DVD Monday 11th august 2014
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