I’ll be honest, watching a non-IMAX film on the mahoosive IMAX screen in the fair city of Bradford is a slightly odd experience.
There’s nothing wrong with the projection, or the film for the matter, it’s just that I’ve got one of those brains that just keeps pointing out how much of the screen isn’t being used.
“Look at all that space at the top,” mutters Brain. “Look at all that space at the side…”
Fortunately, once Calvary started, Brain shut up and I could allow the wonderful Brendan Gleeson to wash over me.
OK, that sounded better in my head.
Brought to you by the man who also wrote and directed The Guard (John Michael McDonagh is a clever bugger), Calvary looks at the seven days in the life of a Priest after he’s told in the confessional he’s going to be murdered.
It’s probably fair to say he’s had better Sundays.
What unfolds is a measured study of one good man going about his business, trying to do the Lord’s work while all around him chaos and depravity reign.
There’s the local butcher (the stunning Chris O’Dowd) who’s just happy that his wife is bonking anything that moves instead of him, there’s the businessman (Dylan Moran in possibly his finest acting performance) who is keeping his troubles at bay with vodka, his daughter (Kelly Reilly in a beautifully measured performance) who needs a father not a Father…
The list goes on (I’d better stop though, people like short paragraphs apparently).
What you get is an essay on how to carry yourself with dignity.
Gleeson’s priest doesn’t know who has threatened him, but rather than hiding he does what he feels he was called to do – help those in need.
Whether they think they’re in need or not.
It could be a really dark tale, it could be bleak and depressing – but as with The Guard (which if you haven’t seen, you must), the dark tone is frequently shattered with some sublime comic writing.
Take the conversation with the psycho in jail (Domhnall Gleeson), or the chat with a young man who is clearly having doubts about life and love – both could have been quite downbeat, but McDonagh has a real gift for throwing in one liners which have you falling about.
And it’s this gift, along with Gleeson (the Brendan one), that make Calvary the film it is.
It’s quirky, it’s touching, it’s dark, it’s hilariously funny, it’s poignant, it looks stunning, every character is well drawn and has something to offer – and you can take what you want out of it.
Personally I sat there trying to draw parallels between the characters and the seven deadly sins, but that’s me.
Others will just sit back and happily enjoy a brilliant film and a great actor at the top of his game.
In The Guard, McDonagh managed to get the audience to like a central character who was essentially unlikeable – in Calvary, he makes you laugh and cry. Almost at the same time.
There’s no bad performances, no wasted lines, no wasted scenes – and to top it all off, the scenery is stunning.
As I said, you can take as little or as much as you want from this film, but if you dive in and engage brain you’ll be rewarded like no other film this year.