Calvary is undaunting in its attempt to meld the realities of fading religious influence with the growing levels of cynicism, pain and resentment in society. Calvary tells of a noble priest in a small Irish town populated by a distinct group of characters all struggling with their own unique vice. One day during confession a man, who claims to have been raped consistently as a child by a priest, threatens to kill Father James in one week in order to make a statement against the Catholic Church’s failure to protect the innocent. Burdened by the seemingly genuine nature of this threat, Father James begins to take on the many longstanding issues plaguing the lives of his congregants.
The most amazing aspect of this film is its depiction of truth. Throughout the story, there are multiple instances when two completely contradictory, coexisting truths clash. People are both incredibly noble and hopelessly evil; some people turn their whole life around while others never change and seem destined for darkness. The grim reality of life certainly seems to triumph throughout most of this film aside from one glowing streak of light that is Father James’ renewed relationship with his daughter. Their reconciliation, and specifically his daughter’s forgiveness of her father’s abandonment, is the ultimate victory for the most undeniable truth veiled within the film; our decision whether or not to forgive those who have caused us the greatest pain, is the most formative decision we will ever make in our lifetime.
Ultimately, the film ends with this very decision hanging in the balance. I found the message of Calvary to be deeply disturbing on a spiritual level. There is so much darkness in the world that it makes our tiny spark of hope seem barely capable of lighting a fire of change in the world. Even those who stand up bravely and give up their own life to defend God’s love for humanity often seem to have died in vain when so much evil continues to prevail after their great sacrifice. This movie poses an incredibly tough question to all those who claim to be Christ followers. When pain and suffering begins to crowd out the light of our faith, will we have the strength to endure? Can we find the grace to forgive? Or will we be crushed by doubt and bitter despair?