Director: John Michael McDonagh
Screenwriters: John Michael McDonagh

Institute History

  • 2014 Sundance Film Festival


Father James is a good priest, driven by spiritual integrity. One day in confession, an unseen man tells James that he’s going to kill him precisely because he’s done nothing wrong. Given a week to make his peace with God, James ministers to sundry lost souls—visits that double as a guided tour of suspects. His preparation for death is further complicated by the arrival of his daughter, who has recently attempted suicide.

A departure from The Guard, John Michael McDonagh’s brilliantly layered, darkly comedic drama about a good priest tormented by a cynical, spiteful community offers a more philosophical reflection on faith, rooted in the biblical story of Calvary’s two thieves—one redeemed, one damned.

A crucible of Catholicism’s contemporary woes (from sexual abuse to waning influence), Calvary’s mystery is one of faith. A fascinating character brilliantly inhabited by Brendan Gleeson, James struggles to reconcile himself to God’s will with forgiveness. Seemingly beyond redemption, the town reflects a soulless society of depleted faith and moral equivocation. As dark forces close in, it would be so easy for James, carrying the weight of the world, simply to drop the load.

— J.N.

Screening Details

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