Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Film I Can't Recommend Enough!

In my lifetime I had never seen a film that actually got the priesthood and Catholicism correct.  As I've expressed here, a lot of time the missteps by Hollywood are depressingly comical.  Most of the time the priesthood and/or Catholicism makes it on to the big screen, my thought is,

"did they not have time to run this by ONE Catholic before they released it?"

Some films just completely bungle Catholicism and the priesthood, and some get much closer to getting it right, but I'd never seen any film that was in, say the 90th percentile of capturing the priesthood and the Faith authentically.

Then, a few days ago, I watched a stunning film that was
beautifully shot
and in every sense a true piece of absolutely nailed the priesthood in a haunting and beautiful and accurate way

The film "Calvary", featuring Brendan Gleeson in the role of Fr. James is DEFINITELY worth your time and your reflection.

I firmly believe that someone sat down with a priest and asked him "what is it like being a priest in today's world" and then they actually factored the responses into making this film.  There is just no way that this film could have been made by people merely GUESSING what being a priest would be like.  I'm so thankful for the accuracy, and I think all Catholics will really enjoy stepping behind the scenes to get a glimpse of what the priesthood is really like today.

First of all, Fr. James knows his weaknesses, and is a man of prayer, simplicity, and gentle humor.  His parish is, like the world, kind of a mess.  There are some good simple people...and there are people who hate his guts and everything he and his collar stand for.

One person hates Fr. James so much that, in the opening scene of the film, shot in the confessional, the penitent whom we can't see threatens to kill Father James.  The murder is said to happen "next Sunday" and so the film builds to that climactic day.

Gleeson's portrayal of priesthood is sheer artwork.  It is a modernized version of "A Diary of a Country Priest" a film that, in my humble opinion, desperately needed some modernizing.

Also, the portrayal of the parishioners is spot on.  Sin, as in real life, leads to sin and misery in this film, and it is embodied perfectly in the people who populate the film.

One of the things that I also enjoy about the film is that it gets right something many Catholics fail to grasp - priests spend some time every day dealing with truly psychotic people.  There is a fraternity among priests that isn't so much a "good ol' boys network" as it is simply that usually only priests know what types of things happen in the daily interactions of a priest, and how the collar so often has so much baggage that people choose to heap onto priests that most people will never know.

One humorous exchange with someone slightly off kilter that made me laugh out loud was when a man, quite serious, comes to Fr. James and says "Father, my wife is bipolar...either that or lactose intolerant."  Priceless!

There are also glimpses of virtue in both Fr. James, and also some of the other people he visits and who are members of the flock.  We are also blessed to see authentic prayer and authentic simplicity shot and accurately portrayed.  I also loved the associate pastor character who is more into theology and money than the he is into the priesthood.

The film has some frank language and some mature topics (discussions of sexual abuse, adultery, homosexuality), but no teen or younger person would enjoy this film anyways because it is more beautiful than it is entertaining.

I hope you give it a watch, and then let me know what you think of it.


  1. Father, I would check out the movie "The Cardinal." It is by far one of the best movies I have seen portraying Catholicism and the priesthood, and allegedly the then-Father Ratzinger was a consultant on it. In addition to this, it has some of the best clerical dress I have ever seen (it is partially set in Rome).

    And here is an excerpt

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  3. The actor, Brendan Gleeson and the director are making a film based on a story by Flannery O Connor. Not sure when it is due to premier but I am looking forward to it. My favorite line of the movie, "why the bleep did you become a priest?" This could be said about any vocation, but I think that for me summed up the movie and this main character.

  4. Watched the movie last night, and WOW! Definitely worth seeing if you're a Catholic. I could say so much about this film. A truly great film will evoke several emotions, and boy does this film do that!
    Father, you mentioned that priests have to deal with psychotic people on a regular basis... in your schooling, are priests required to take psychology courses, and/or are priests trained in dealing with mentally/emotionally troubled people like the characters in this film?
    Continuing to pray for all priests... God bless each one!!

    1. We do receive some solid training in how to work with folks like the ones you see in the film


  5. It was so very weighty to see so much darkness in the lives of the people of the town and so little openness to the goodness and truth this earnest (although far from perfect) priest had so faithfully tried to offer those people. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for priests to give your whole lives to trying to win people to the love and truth of God so very present in our Church, and to serve as channels of grace in the sacraments, only to have the vast majority of us be clueless and unreceptive to the priceless gifts you are trying to give us, if only we would accept them.

    It was so very sad when that father pulled his daughter away from Fr. James as if he were in as much terror of his daughter being in the company of a priest as he would be of her being approached by a wild predatory animal. I wonder if the priests I know experience that fear and prejudice.

    Teresa ( the woman in the film who lost her husband) was a ray of light in the darkness for Fr. James and for all of us viewers; the impact of her faith, on this priest was striking, helping me to realize that the faith of us lay people can be a gift to our priests just as your faith is a gift to us. And the rich guy's receptivity, finally, at the end, showed a glimmer of hope for fruitful ministry for this beleaguered priest, going beyond himself so selflessly in the face of his immanent murder.