- You can't tear your eyes away from Brendan Gleeson.
Calvary opens with a priest sitting in a confessional. A man steps into the confessional and tells the priest that he's going to kill him a week from today. The rest of the film follows the priest around his small coastal town in Ireland as he visits its eccentric residents, trying to figure out what to do. It's too stagey—the film is directed and written by John Michael McDonagh, brother to playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh—and a bit too aimless, but the casting of the main character is perfect. Brendan Gleeson has to be one of the most watchable actors in cinema today; his Father James is a wry, optimistic creation, and you're happy to spend a hundred minutes with him.
Unfortunately, the rest of Calvary fails to match Gleeson's considerable talents. The many citizens of Father James's town are a symphony played on a toy piano. They all share the Father's fascination with suicide and sin and forgiveness, but none of them contribute anything of value to his quest. It's all supremely Irish Catholic, and a bit too theatrical. On a stage, Gleeson could've dominated the audience's attention, but on a screen, it feels as though he's been abandoned by his cast and director.