Mighty Benbulben lurks in many a shot throughout the background of this film- imposing, menacing, and as is so much of the Irish countryside- hauntingly beautiful, a metaphor for the tragedy and survival that is Irish history. The Catholic priest scandal is but a side note in Calvary, the courier for the larger message- humanity is hell bent on doing itself in, in every way imaginable. We refuse to learn, and yet refuse to give up. The characters in Calvary are very much caricatures of human vice and frailty, each excelling in their own chosen path to misery and hell. And they all find themselves within convenient drinking distance, a small rural community of emotional vampires in the most scenic of countrysides.
Brendan Gleeson's Father James must somehow deal with the whole lot, all the while knowing that one is going to kill him. More philosopher than priest, he has plenty going for him, including his own veiled darkness. The story has plot flaws aplenty, yes; and the metaphors in people's clothing come on a tad too strong and obvious- but they grab hold of you nonetheless, just as life's many ugly little side plots drag us in despite our protest. And as is often the case, there's just no way of telling who'll win.