Sin and Virtues



Tea: Three Cinnamon Tea


Why is it that I have to turn to little production with a small cast, if I want solid writing and atmosphere? Can big studios not hire screenwriters that actually have some skill? People might argue that this is not what the masses want, but to that I reply: Who doesn’t like a good story with believable characters you can relate to? Scolding aside, here is a movie I had to turn to, since Star Wars left me wanting in terms of dialogue and likable characters. Calvary it is then.

The team behind Calvary was already familiar to me, since I absolutely adored the black comedy that was The Guard (go and watch that, by the way) with same lead actor Brendan Gleeson. In this movie he is Father James, a priest in a small community in Ireland that gets a rather odd confession. An unknown person threatens to kill him by next Sunday, not because he has done anything wrong, but killing a good priest will send a message that murdering a corrupt one never could. Father James accepts this for the time being and we are left to experience the week leading up to Sunday in this priest’s life with all that comes with it.


– Brendan Gleeson makes Father James a lovable and relatable character

Whoever is looking for a black comedy here is certainly at the wrong address. While there are some rather humorous bits here, it is far from the firework of dark comedy found in The Guard. What we have at our hands here is a slice of life. Father James’ interaction with his flock and all the little problems they carry around with them. People might accuse this movie of being drawn out with too many subplots, but I would not consider all the individual tragedies as such. They are an integral part and take no second position as opposed to Father James’ story, they ARE his story, the story of a priest in a time when the church is accused of abusing child after child. And this man should stand representative of such an institution that banishes sin wherever it walks and leaves nothing but sin in its wake.


– The butcher and his problems with his wife is only one of many interesting stories told in this movie –

As one would expect the characters in this movie are well-thought out and come to live via great performances that breathe life into them. They seem genuine and not at all like actors. Brendan Gleeson does, however, do the best job by a long haul and in a movie packed with great performances that is certainly saying something. His daughter also does a fantastic job of embodying the somewhat astray mentality of a priest’s daughter and her suicidal tendencies. The “announced killer”, who I will of course not give away, does an exceptional job as well and the final day and their confrontation leaves nothing wanting and sends the viewers off with one of the best endings in recent memory.


– Father James is also a real father (in more than one sense) –

This movie is certainly dark, it’s about killing a priest, raping children and all that, so one can expect a certain dark aura hanging over the entire affair. Yet, the movie handles this darkness so well and does not let it weigh down the entire story, but rather works with it, moulds it into new and exciting forms. The struggles of all the side characters are very reflective of modern concerns people have in varying degrees of intensity. At the same time, these constant dark tones leave the viewer, oddly enough, with a sort of warm feeling. It is hard to pin point why, but Father James’ character is relatable and put through struggle after struggle and he might break down for a moment, but never loses his way. And watching that is somewhat truly inspiring.

This movie also provides the viewer with a lovely trip through Ireland with some amazing landscape shots. And the camera work in general must be praised, since it does a fantastic job. Cuts are made where necessary not thrown around like toys in the Kindergarten. The dark and sombre atmosphere is carried into every shot and does not load the picture down with endless visual input, but rather well accentuated images. The soundtrack is used in a similar minimalistic, but exceedingly effective way. It accompanies the action on screen, never subtracts and always adds.


– Added Bonus: Lovely shots of Ireland –

Perhaps I criticize too much and talk too little about the works out there that truly and masterfully understand their craft, yet sadly quality is highly underrated. I cannot, however, praise Calvary enough. It is a movie everyone should see, be it a religious person or an atheist. Even with the overt religious tones, this movie has very little to do with religion itself. It deals with prejudices, struggles, and who we are to others as opposed to who we are to ourselves. It is a technical as much as an acting marble and a shame that it is not known to a lot of people. Watch Calvary and after that take a long walk. I promise it will be a great experience.



Image sources in order of appearance:


2 thoughts on “Sin and Virtues

  1. This movie certainly looks very interesting. I already know the actor of the protagonist from minor roles in “Kingdom of Heavens” and “Troy”. He didn´t really stand out there but I guess this is also due to the fact that his impersonations weren´t all too important for the plot and he was supposed to play an unlikeable person in both movies.
    The landscape looks stunning, though and I wonder who might be the murderer and whether or not he achieves his/her goal.


    • You may also know him as MadEye Moody from Harry Potter where he did a terrific job as well. You can see it coming, but it is not disappointing, in fact it is probably one of my favourite endings to a movie. So goooo see it.


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