2014 has been a big year for Christian-themed movies. God’s Not Dead, Noah, Heaven is Real, Son of God and Mom’s Night Out have all met with success, with Nicolas Cage’s version of Left Behind soon to come.
The best of the bunch might be one you’ve never even heard of.
Calvary stars Brendan Gleeson (“Mad Eye Moody” from the Harry Potter series) as Father James Lavelle. The opening scene sets the stage: a confessor reveals his childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. He states his intention to kill Father Lavelle in one week, noting that “nobody will blink an eye if a guilty priest is murdered, but if a good priest is killed it will shock the world.”
The movie follows James for the next week, through his interactions with his parish and a visit by his estranged daughter (he became a priest after his wife died). I won’t say any more, only that this is a story that should go unspoiled.
Make no mistake, this is not a “Christian” movie. Rated R, it contains a great deal of language, some disturbing sexual dialogue and a few scenes of violence. There are more than a few Christians who’d refuse to see it purely on that basis, and that’s too bad.
Calvary is the best metaphorical depiction of Christ in a fallen world that I’ve ever seen. There are a lot of miserable people in his parish, many of them damaged by the church. All of them take out their bitterness against this man who doesn’t deserve it. As a representative of the church, his “goodness” only stokes anger against him. Surely, they say, he must have hidden sins or a checkered past.
I highly recommend this movie. Gleeson’s performance is brilliant, and while the rest of the cast borders on caricature they’re a necessary element of the story. Despite its rough content, I see Christ clearly in Calvary, feeling his pain like I never have before. And it is beautiful.