Critics Consensus

Led by a brilliant performance from Brendan Gleeson, Calvary tackles weighty issues with humor, intelligence, and sensitivity.



Total Count: 165


Audience Score

User Ratings: 17,978
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Movie Info

CALVARY's Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a good priest who is faced with sinister and troubling circumstances brought about by a mysterious member of his parish. Although he continues to comfort his own fragile daughter (Kelly Reilly) and reach out to help members of his church with their various scurrilous moral - and often comic - problems, he feels sinister and troubling forces closing in, and begins to wonder if he will have the courage to face his own personal Calvary. (c) Fox Searchlight


Brendan Gleeson
as Father James
Chris O'Dowd
as Jack Brennan
Dylan Moran
as Michael Fitzgerald
M. Emmet Walsh
as Gerald Ryan
Kelly Reilly
as Fiona Lavelle
Domhnall Gleeson
as Freddie Joyce
Aidan Gillen
as Dr. Frank Harte
Pat Shortt
as Brendan Lynch
David Wilmot
as Fr. Timothy Leary
Gary Lydon
as Inspector Gerry Stanton
Isaach De Bankolé
as Simon Asamoah
Killian Scott
as Milo Herlihy
Orla O'Rourke
as Veronica Brennan
Owen Sharpe
as Leo McARthur
David McSavage
as Bishop Montgomery
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News & Interviews for Calvary

Critic Reviews for Calvary

All Critics (165) | Top Critics (43) | Fresh (148) | Rotten (17)

  • It's Gleeson who gives the performance of a lifetime as the priest.

    Dec 31, 2017 | Full Review…

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • The tension of Calvary is fitful at best, and much of the movie trips into silliness, but in Brendan Gleeson -- in his proud bearing and his lamenting gaze -- we see the plight of the lonely believer in a world beyond belief.

    Sep 22, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Brendan Gleeson delivers a typically towering yet warm performance in "Calvary." Too bad the movie's something of a mess.

    Aug 15, 2014 | Rating: C | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • It serves as a marvelous showcase for Gleeson, a great old-lion actor who shows, in the film's many close-ups, a quiet, weary yet unbending faith, and a face on which emotion can play like a wave on the beach.

    Aug 14, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/4
  • Writer-director John Michael McDonagh paints a rich portrait of the priestly life (and life in general) by concentrating on the details.

    Aug 14, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Both the comedy and the violence are watered down by a dark melancholy.

    Aug 14, 2014 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Calvary

  • Apr 27, 2016
    Much about this piece seems amateur and, apart from Brendan Gleeson's hulking beauty and hard-won compassion, the performances are wildly uneven and the editing is choppy. It's trying to show Ireland, all at once, and that's a huge ambition, and it fails. Several great comedians are in this film and there's no laughs: brutal men get a lot of talk-time and I'm not sure that women really get their place: the female characters are largely reactive and too pretty and sentimental. But if you want to see 'Father Ted' recast as Lear then off you go.
    Charles B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 04, 2015
    The story of a man staying true to what he believes in while surrounded by madness. Gleeson is phenomenal.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Apr 12, 2015
    Exceedingly bleak, weighty, and inaccessible, Calvary is a film that feels like it should pack more of a punch than it does. Set in Ireland, the film follows Father James, a good man in a decidedly amoral word, who finds himself staring down the threat of murder through no fault of his own. Calvary's greatest strength is undoubtedly the performance of Brendan Gleeson, which is rightly described as brilliant. He completely inhibits his role, and greatly humanizes the priesthood in a way that I have not seen before. He anchors the cast around him, who seem to resent his fortitude and strength in their own plights. The writing supplies us with witty dry humor, and the script takes on some tough subjects. What then, is the problem with Calvary? It feels bleak for the sake of bleak. Redemption, no pun intended, is really nowhere to be found. All of the problems of those in the community, their entire personalities, seem to be mere vehicles for his antagonism. In this sense, the film feels contrived. Its ultimate message is also hard to discern, lacking the execution to really tackle those issues it pretends to have a commentary on. It's simply dreary, with no real greater purpose. We don't empathize with the characters, nor the events they find themselves in, so we ultimately don't feel involved. Depressing to a fault, inaccessible. 2.5/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 23, 2015
    Edgy and provocative, Calvary is a gritty character drama. The story follows a Catholic priest who's faced with a moral dilemma when he receives a death threat from a confessor who suffered sexual abuse as a child and holds the Church responsible. Brendan Gleeson gives an incredible performance that has a lot of nuance and depth. And, the characters are especially well-written and feel real. However, the priest comes off as rather ineffective; which could be the point, but weakens the character. Also, the threat ends up getting pushed into the background and loses its urgency once the film gets caught up in the townspeople and the priest's routine. While Calvary deals some very powerful themes, it has a little trouble staying focused.
    Dann M Super Reviewer

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