Best of 2014: Calvary

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There have been many great films throughout 2014. The compilation of a standard bloggers top ten proved to be too much of a challenge which gives you a good indication of the many high quality offerings there have been.

However one film stood out. One film above all others stayed with me throughout the year John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary.

Testament to the power of McDonagh’s work is the fact that I have only seen Calvary once. I wrote another blog entry on the film at that time here.

Fr. James (Brendan Gleeson) is told by a visitor to his confessional booth of the horrific abuse inflicted by a priest. He is also told that he will be killed in seven days, not because he himself is guilty of the crime, but he will be killed because he is innocent.

What transpires is a darkly comic trip through not so much a who dunnit but a which one will it be. We watch as Father James continues his work among the community, tending to his flock, the needs of his daughter with grace and care while this threat hangs over his head.

This film also fits the narrative of 2014 well. McDonagh has pulled no punches in his commentary on the church and it’s unravelling past. Nor has he fell silent on Ireland’s financial situation in his portrayal of an arrogant banker (Dylan Moran) who has no regard for his fellow man. The director clearly disapproves of the actions of both institutions and lets the viewer know it.

For me the UK release coinciding with the Easter period also has a deep spiritual resonance. As we watch a village slowly turn on it’s once beloved man of religion it is hard not to draw comparisons to the Easter story.  A village full of extreme and in some ways biblical characters, an inn keeper, a rich young ruler (a banker), church leaders more concerned with rules than what is happening on the ground, murderers all have a part to play in this week long journey towards Fr. James’ fate. These characters are initially welcoming and as the week passes begin to turn on the priest with increasing ferocity and venom.

For for its powerful message, rich story, great performances and stunning scenery Calvary is without doubt my film of 2014.

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