A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Calvary is a thoughtful drama about an Irish priest. It has lots of mature content, including shooting and blood, a dead dog, and suggested violence against women and children. No real sex is shown, but there's strong innuendo throughout, and one female character is said to be openly having an affair. A male character is shown with his pants unbuttoned, only barely covering sensitive parts, and there's a reference to transsexual pornography. A character urinates on a painting (no body parts shown). Language is also strong throughout, including "f--k," "s--t," and "c--t." The main character struggles with alcohol and is seen drinking excessively and getting violently drunk in one scene. Other characters are shown briefly snorting cocaine, smoking pot, and smoking cigarettes. Other types of drugs are mentioned. Despite the strong material, Calvary is extremely well-made and acted, and it tackles some very interesting, thought-provoking ideas, including forgiveness.
What's the story?
In a small Irish seaside town, Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) hears a Sunday confession. A man tells him that, as a child, he was raped by a priest -- and he now intends to kill the innocent Father Lavelle in one week's time. Father Lavelle goes about his week, trying to help his flock, having deep discussions, but often leaving things frustratingly unresolved. A beautiful young wife loses her husband in an accident, and he reads the Last Rites. His grown daughter, Fiona (Kelly Reilly), fresh from a suicide attempt, visits for a few days, and they discuss their troubled past. Someone burns down the church. Finally, Sunday comes, and Father Lavelle heads to a pre-arranged meeting place on the beach. Can he save the troubled man's soul?
Is it any good?
This is a beautifully composed film centering on a great performance. Director John Michael McDonagh's previous film, The Guard, was great fun, but CALVARY -- which reunites McDonagh (brother of playwright/filmmaker Martin McDonagh) with his Guard star, Gleeson, and cinematographer, Larry Smith -- is definitely something a bit more.
The movie doesn't generate much suspense from its a simple "countdown" motif. Instead, it's mainly focused on conversations, which are so brilliantly written and so ambiguous that they manage to convey many complex, overlapping ideas. And the cinematography supports the images with nuanced use of space, temperature, and character composition; it's a very visual film, as well as a verbose one. The final, hopeful moments show the entire cast of characters; Father Lavelle has failed to reach many of them, but he did in fact get to a few, touching their hearts. The ambiguous ending is worth discussing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Calvary's violence. What's shown and not shown? How do these decisions affect the story? How many characters are shown with guns, and how are they used?
What kind of sexual references did you notice in the movie? What are the characters' attitudes toward sex? What role does it play in the story?
What are the characters' attitudes toward drinking? Are there realistic consequences when characters drink/get drunk/use other substances?
What are some of the ideas that Father Lavelle successfully discusses with others? What was the content of some of his "failed" conversations?
- In theaters: August 1, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 9, 2014
- Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O'Dowd
- Director: John Michael McDonagh
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual references, language, brief strong violence and some drug use
For kids who love drama
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.