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In case you haven’t noticed, fall is on its way. Summer is winding down as classrooms are filling up. And Hollywood is following suit, gradually making the transition from big, flashy summer blockbusters to more slow and thoughtful award season dramas like writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary.

Calvary stars Brendan Gleeson as Father James, a well-liked priest in a small Irish community. One morning, he hears the confession of a man who’s haunted by the abuse that he suffered at the hands of another priest when he was a boy. Instead of coming forward with claims against a long-dead priest, he decides that the best revenge is to kill a good priest—Father James—and he gives him a week to get his affairs in order.

Instead of reporting the threat to the police, Father James chooses to go about his business, reaching out to the troubled members of his community. But as the week progresses, everything begins to crumble around him, and he struggles to stay strong.

After another summer full of superheroes and big-budget silliness, Calvary is a powerful shock to the system—a haunting film about faith, sin, and redemption, all revolving around one remarkable character.

Father James is a good-natured priest who’s deeply devoted to his calling. He still struggles with his own past—his heartbreaks and his demons—and, as a result, he knows all too well what it’s like to be human. He handles his parishioners accordingly, hearing their confessions and engaging in some strangely frank conversations, offering guidance and honest opinions instead of self-important sermons. He’s slow to judge and quick to help—and it’s obvious that he truly cares about the flawed and damaged people of his little seaside community, no matter how cold and cruel some of them may be.

Gleeson’s portrayal, then, takes this likable priest and gives him depth. He builds Father James’s personality through exchanges with everyone from his troubled daughter to his trouble-making altar boy. He plays the role with sincerity and a sense of humor, making Father James a real, honest character—and one of the few decent people in the entire village.

His story, meanwhile, is a challenging one, tackling some serious issues as it follows Father James through an especially trying week. Despite his situation, though, he continues to offer the same message—that no one is a lost cause—even as he presumably continues to come into contact with the man who’s threatened to kill him in just a matter of days.

Calvary isn’t always an easy film to watch—even with its occasional touches of humor. But it’s a story well-told—a thought-provoking drama that will leave viewers in quiet contemplation as the closing credits roll.

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