McDonagh's script doesn't flinch as it takes us through the via dolorosa, which is Fr James' everyday life and most surely tests his faith to its limits. The good priest has the heart of a pastor and goes about his parish work shouldering the burden, as many priests do, of the aftermath of the child abuse scandal. A dark comic thread runs through the movie but does little to relieve the sadness and gloomy portent that pervade the film. Though I was completely caught up in the story throughout the course of the film, I found it difficult and disturbing to watch, but, at the same time, it was impossible for me to turn away. Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal came to mind.
The movie was filmed in and around County Sligo in the north of Ireland. Though the beach scene settings and recurring views of the impressive Benbulbin rock formation are picturesque, I could not help but think of the town and the surroundings as relentlessly godforsaken places.
Writing about Calvary was probably the most difficult review of any I've ever done, because I admire the film greatly, and I wanted to get the words right. Gleeson is magnificent in his role, and, though he dominates the film, the supporting cast of characters are intriguing and talented enough to hold their own. In his script and direction, McDonagh resists any temptation to cater to the audience or take the easy way out in tackling difficult and controversial subjects in this splendid and powerful film.