Category Archives: Comedy

Calvary: Wrath, Doubt, and the Loss of Innocence

Hi! It’s been a long while since we last wrote here, and I’m gonna go and review a film [internal yelling] EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH!

Calvary is a not-well-known Irish film released this year that features some well known actors. Some of them are Brendan Gleeson (who plays the main role) who played Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody in the Harry Potter films, Aidan Gillen who’s Petyr Baelish off Game of Thrones, the bitter stand-up comic Dylan Moran of Black Books/Shaun of the Dead fame, Kelly Reilly who played Mary Morstan in the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films, and Domnhall Gleeson, who’s set to star in Star Wars Episode VII. Well, I hope that’ll get you interested in watching this. Because, the prospect of having Dylan Moran, Aidan Gillen, and Domhnall Gleeson in one film is what interested me in this film.

This film tells us about a priest (Brendan Gleeson) who was threatened by someone during a confession. The person threatened to kill him in seven days. The film covers the seven days from the threat until the death. The grand design is as simple as that, actually. But the story is not as simple as that – the seven days highlighted the priest’s “midlife crisis” (or more accurately described as a near-death crisis) as he struggles to keep his life in order, make himself safe, and connect with his community. Yet the priest’s worry about the threat, the truth that it could be anyone in his small community, and the weight of letting go is burdening himself – and we can see the true nature of the priest himself.

“There’s no point in killing a bad priest. Killing a good one? That would be a shock.”

This film is set in a small Irish community, so don’t be surprised if the characters speak in a near-British accent while paying in Euros. Besides of the priest, the community features a smorgasbord of characters with different personalities. Kelly Reilly plays the priest’s daughter who wanted to connect with him. Chris O’Dowd plays a meat seller with a dry wit. Aidan Gillen plays a (sort of creepy) nurse with tendencies of the hedonistic. Domhnall Gleeson plays a psychopath in his tenure in prison. Marie-Josee Croze plays a grieving wife whose husband died in an accident. Killian Scott plays a young man who wanted to join the army. And, my favorite character of all, Dylan Moran as a jaded rich man who goes through some serious character development in the movie.

“Everything has to mean something. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

There are TONS of reasons why you have to watch this movie. This movie is often labeled as a comedy, but don’t be tricked; the kind of comedy John Michael McDonagh (the director and the writer) is aiming for is not your ordinary, slapstick American comedy. It’s all black comedy. For people who are not familiar with black comedy, they might just refer to this as a plain drama. But the clashing personalities of the characters and the war inside the community is what makes it a comedy.

An obvious reason to watch this film is its beauty. The cinematography brilliantly portrays the beauty of the Irish coastlines and conveys a sense of contemplation. Another reason to love this film is that this film is not just an ordinary whodunnit written with a Broadchurch-like small town approach, but this film also explores what the victim feels. This film features the war of innocence and wrath inside the priest, and even leaves a room of doubt for the (supposed) holiest man in the community. As this war tears the priest apart, we can see who the priest truly is, and time won’t wait as his seven days goes by.

The third reason why this movie is really good is that there’s no “bad” or “good” people in this movie. Yes, we can obviously spot antiheroes and antivillains, but there is no real boundary between the good and the evil in the people’s personalities. Yet, we can see the war of good and evil enraging between the characters. The priest with his near-death crisis. The rich man with his hedonistic addictions. The wife with her faith. This creates a deep exploration of the characters, and it makes every character, even the asshole-est one, likeable.

The only problem about this movie is that the writing is not cleverly delivered by most of the actors. The standout performances of this film are Brendan Gleeson’s, Dylan Moran’s, and Domhnall Gleeson’s. The person who eventually is going to murder the priest does not deliver the feelings I expected him to deliver. BUT YOU STILL SHOULD WATCH THIS MOVIE. I watched this movie about a month ago and it has not left my mind since then.



Shallow Grave: Danny Boyle’s First Testament

The man behind Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, and 28 Days Later surely has to start from somewhere. Danny Boyle’s very own 1994-released Shallow Grave is his first ever feature film, starring Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who, Thor: The Dark World), Ewan McGregor (Star Wars prequel trilogy, Moulin Rouge), and Kerry Fox (Bright Star), who were relatively unknown actors then, in one of their first lead roles. This film will later be known as the first paving stone for Danny Boyle and actors Eccleston and McGregor.

In Shallow Grave, three friends (Fox, Eccleston, McGregor) accepts a new flatmate (Keith Allen) in their flat, and the next day, found him dead. With a suitcase full of money. They decided to keep the money, yet guilt, betrayal, and fear follows afterwards, and the three friends went to the verge of breaking their own friendship.

The film’s art direction centralizes in the surreal and bizarre, like what we will find in Danny Boyle’s later works. For example, this freaky baby. This example could possibly ring a bell for Boyle’s next work, also wrapped in his bizarre artistic style….

Wow. Much surreal.

When we think of it, the bizarre atmosphere of this film stretches over from the death of the roommate until the climax of the plot. The plot itself deals with betrayal and insanity, with spices of judgement. The plot doesn’t seem to dig too much, it only touches the surface of the problem. You really wanted something much more; you’re not really satisfied with the resolution.

There are some things that are wonderful in this film that made me acknowledge its brilliance. The performances of the cast were out of this world. Eccleston could mark his character’s state of mind right in the spot; Fox  maximizes her character’s emotions to the utmost level; and McGregor could really make an asshole come alive. The artistic direction was another thing I like from this film. It keeps all these cheery colours, and at the same time, retaining the plot’s dark themes.

Christopher Eccleston in a colorful frame

Danny Boyle’s first work sure isn’t his best, but it serves as a first step to all his later brilliant works. This is his first testament: an intriguing story, out-of-this-world performances, yet it is still a shallow grave.