Here are words I did not expect to write a few short months ago: Two of the very best movies released this summer are portraits of a serious (if troubled) religious faith. And not only religious faith — Catholic faith. And not only Catholic faith, but the faith of Catholic religious — first a soon-to-be-nun in the black-and-white, Polish-language Ida (reviewed in the July 7 issue of NR) and now an aging but still vital priest in the very vivid, very Irish Calvary.
The priest is played by Brendan Gleeson, his heavy body bound in an antique, bright-buttoned cassock, and his soul wearied by his erring, disillusioned, disbelieving flock. He is Father James, the pastor of a small town on Ireland’s gorgeous, windswept western coast — a good priest, most everyone in the neighborhood agrees, even as they mock him, prod him, and sometimes snarl at him, making him a scapegoat for all the Irish Church’s sins.