Calvary – reviews of 'terrific' Irish black comedy drama

Apr 11, 2014

John McDonagh's funny, gripping new film has a great soulful turn from Brendan Gleeson, say critics

What you need to know 
Irish black comedy Calvary is released in UK cinemas today. The film is written and directed by John McDonagh (The Guard) and like The Guard stars Brendan Gleeson.

Gleeson plays Father James Lavelle, a good Catholic priest who receives a death threat from a man with a grudge against the church, and realises that sinister forces are closing in on him. With comedians Chris O'Dowd and Dylan Moran, Kelly Reilly (pictured above, with Gleeson), and Game of Thrones' Aidan Gillen. 

What the critics like The film is "gripping, moving, funny and troubling, down to an uncompromising yet uncynical finish", says Kim Newman in Empire. There are sweet and funny moments, but an undercurrent of anger storms throughout.

"McDonagh's film is terrific", with a sharp sense of place and a deep love of language, says Xan Brooks in The Guardian. It's playful, mercurial, clever, and rattling with gallows laughter as it paints a portrait of an Irish community that is at once intimate and alienated.

Calvary is "grounded by a performance of monumental soul from Gleeson", says Justin Chang in Variety. As the grizzled clergyman whose every nugget of hard-headed wisdom resonates with bitter life knowledge he has never seemed less capable of hitting a false or inauthentic note.

What they don't like "McDonagh's brand of surreal, paint-it-black humour is an acquired taste" and it's slipshod in places, says Cath Clarke in Time Out. It'll be a shade too dark for some, but everyone else, sit back and enjoy. 

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