Review / ‘Calvary’  (MA)  ****

calvaryIN an Irish village (played by Strandhill, Co. Sligo, between the sea and the butte called Knocknarea) Father James (a Brendan Gleeson performance worthy of highest peer acclaim in award contests) hears a terrifying confession.

Next Sunday, on the beach, he will kill Father James, a good and respected priest, to atone for five years of childhood sexual abuse from a bad priest now dead and all the other abuses of children by bad priests.

That’s a powerful prelude to writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s comedic drama about the church and sin, of which the village has plenty. The butcher beats his unfaithful wife, the publican has an aggressive streak, the medico is a cynic, the local landowner hates himself and drinks to forget, the cop fancies rent boys. Further afield, the dilettante Monsignor treats his position as a soft berth. And on Friday night, somebody torches the church.

Father James’s deceased wife bore a winsome daughter. Fiona (Kelly Riley) visiting from Dublin has wrists bandaged from a suicide attempt.

Among these and other joyfuls, McDonagh has sprinkled a generous dose of comedy crafted with high skill. Expectation of a grim end is something for us to keep in mind, without manifest dramatic emphasis. The parallel between Golgotha and the beach embraces Father James’ fate as fulfilment of his vocation. Patches of dissertation about faith and belief ask questions that need asking, whatever the Vatican’s view.

At Palace Electric and Capitol 6

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