Brendan Gleeson stars in "Calvary," written and directed by John Michael McDonagh
A Good Priest Is Hard to Film | Michael Jameson | CWR
John Michael McDonagh's new film, "Calvary", has a gripping premise, but a shaky grasp on Catholic teaching and practice
The poster for Calvary is arresting and evocative: a cross of bullet holes marks the lead character, Fr. James--seemingly shot through the paper. John Michael McDonagh's Calvary attempts to tell the story of a "good priest" who, while waiting in the confessional for a penitent, receives a death threat from a male victim of sexual abuse, whose identity is obscured by the confessional. The penitent tells the priest to meet him on the beach in seven days. The killer explains his logic as follows: no one pays any mind when a bad priest is killed, but if a good priest is murdered, he'll have everyone's attention.
Thus begins this sometimes promising but ultimately unsatisfying film, with Fr. James unpacking the veracity of the threat and the potential identity of the confessional-obscured killer. However, the faithful Catholic viewer will quickly notice that the descriptive "good priest" mean very different things to different people.