Father James is a good priest, who works in a small parish in a country town in Ireland. One day while in confession, a man threatens the life of the good-natured priest sending his life spiraling out of control. Further complicating matters his his troubled daughter arrives in town, leading Father James juggling between his daughter and the need to reach out to members of his church navigating offensive moral problems. John Michael McDonagh's Calvary is a dramatic, and often comedic, story that manages both elements extremely well. Much of the film is spent as Father James talks to various members of the community, whose personalities and intentions couldn't be more different. It's really impressive how McDonagh managers to balance a tone that is shifting between nearly every character Father James comes across, going from comedic to dramatic to traumatic without skipping a beat. For a story about a man who is being given a week to live, Calvary lacks a lot of tension but it somehow works because of Gleeson's controlled character whose seeing a world full of moral indecency and fragility. Calvary does a great job at showing how this strife, tragedy, and fragility affect Father James, torturing his own soul as he struggles himself to comprehend the agony which exists in life. This isn't a film about religion per se, but more a spiritual experience about the power of human virtue and forgiveness. Father James is a man who sees the worst in people and yet his persistence in aiding them, always seeing positive side in them, speaks to the overall themes of the film.
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