Directed By: John Michael McDonagh

Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, and Dylan Moran

"Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved.
Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.

-St. Augustine

The Catholic Church has had a serious scandal on its hands for more than a decade now.  The atrocities done to innocent children over the years will haunt the victims for the remainder of their lives and the church until the end of its days.  That being said, there hasn't been an explosion of movies about the freaky fathers at our local parishes.  Yes, we've had some great movies that have explored the topic, but there's still a lot more to be explored as it relates to sexual abuse in the church.  Perhaps this is why this weekend's Irish drama Calvary has garnered my interest.

One day, Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) goes to the confessional at his church to hear the sins of one of his parishioners.  For this particular man, however, Father Lavelle hears the sins he will commit in the not too distant future.  This man was once sexually abused by a man of the cloth with whom Father Lavelle worked.  Because the bad priest is dead and it's more shocking to kill a good priest, the man prematurely confesses to killing Father Lavelle.  He gives the priest a week to put his house in order, but he will take the father's life next Sunday at the beach.  Now, that's a startling opening line to the father, unlike anything he’s heard prior in a confessional.

As the week progresses, Father Lavelle meets with the parishioners in town including abusive butcher Jack (Chris O'Dowd), cynical doctor Frank Harte (Aidan Gillen), and lonely self-destructive millionaire Michael Fitzgerald (Dylan Moran).  As he meets the different men who are faithful at his church, he suspects any and all of them are capable of murder.  As such, Father Lavelle does what any man would do and purchases a firearm to protect himself.  He regrets the sins of his fellow priest, but he has no intention of being the man who atones for them.  Meanwhile, the priest's daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly) arrives in town to visit.

There haven't been too many films that I would consider to be genuinely macabre this year, but Irish drama Calvary fits the bill.  It’s a dark, dark whodunit that explores the inner savage within us all.  Director John Michael McDonagh uses mystery and suspense to fuel his latest film.  With every person he meets at every turn, Father Lavelle suspects the worst.  To hear some of the horrific, gruesome things these characters say, the feisty priest has every right to do so.  This ever-growing suspicion from the priest is what fuels McDonagh’s mystery and suspense.  Though it's pretty easy to predict who the potential killer is based on casting alone, Calvary is nonetheless one wild, sinister ride along the way thanks to strong direction from McDonagh.

The cast does an impressive job as well.  For his part as our star Father James Lavelle, Brendan Gleeson is no timid priest.  While he has a compassionate, spiritual side, Gleeson's Lavelle is not afraid to be blunt and brutally honest.  He brings a brand of caustic wit necessary to cut through the tension of this otherwise dark film.  As supporting characters, Chris O'Dowd and Aidan Gillen both offer rather slippery characters in their own ways.  Their portrayals of these characters help to bolster the mystery and suspense that fuel the film.  For O'Dowd, this is a nice pivot from films like Bridesmaids and The Sapphires.  Finally, Kelly Reilly deftly gives us Father Lavelle's self-destructive daughter Fiona.  As we've seen from her performances in past films like Flight, she has an innate talent for playing tortured, conflicted characters.  That definitely comes to light here once again.

There's a quiet brutality to Calvary that just resonates.  While I have some gripes with the ending, I understand why McDonagh takes the route he does.  The creative decision plays into the larger metaphor of the film and helps it to live up to its title.  Calvary gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a couple of glasses of Viognier with this one.