Occasionally a film role can define a career. Though Brendan Gleeson didn't begin acting until he was in his 30's, he's made quite a storied collection of movies. But in "Calgary", he sets himself apart from his other film choices by showcasing his immense talent as a priest held responsible, unwittingly, for sexual child abuse.
Gleeson plays Father James, a once-married man with a grown, emotionally fragile daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly). Upon his wife's death, James turns to the priesthood, a vocation he had considered prior to marriage.
"Calgary" begins with an unknown (to us) man in a confessional informing Father James that he, Father James, is going to be killed the following Sunday as punishment for the sexual abuse sins of a now-dead priest. The confessee wants his pound of flesh for the heinous sins perpetrated upon him, and in his mind, killing the innocent Father James is the only solution.
Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, "Calgary" is one of the perfect examples of fine writing and acting. McDonagh and Gleeson have collaborated before on "The Guard", and have plans in motion to film another.
But "Calgary" is a dark film focusing on Catholic ideas of sin and redemption. No one in the small coastal town where "Calgary" takes place seems at all interested in forgiveness, and their treatment of this poor Irish priest is deplorable.
David and I met Gleeson when he was in Chicago recently promoting the movie with McDonagh. When asked by David which role so far has been his favorite, without missing a beat, he replied "Calgary". Gleeson must draw from within every emotion available to him to portray Father James. And apparently it was a tough character to shake off.
His co-stars, Chris O'Dowd as the local butcher and wife-beater, Jack Brennan, and Reilly, are every bit as good as Gleeson, and both were highly praised by the actor.
There is one highly contentious bar fight scene which has Father James totally inebriated waving around a loaded pistol. It exemplifies the misery, frustration and uncertainty that have become the priest's daily companions --- and Gleeson nails the scene beautifully.
Great filmmaking is an art. McDonagh and Gleeson have showcased that art with "Calgary".
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
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