After the 2011 black comedy The Guard, Brendan Gleeson reteams with writer-director John Michael McDonagh for a darker comical drama grappling with issues of faith and forgiveness. McDonagh's usual jagged dialogue and snappy characters are on-hand in abundance while the film digs deep through a rather meandering, episodic plot.
In rural Ireland, Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is quietly enduring confessionals when one of his parishioners says he's going to kill him next Sunday. Shaken, James begins to explore his faith and mortality over the coming week. His daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly) arrives following another suicide attempt, and he consoles a grieving French visitor (Marie-Josee Croze) and visits an imprisoned killer (Domhnall Gleeson). But almost anyone in the village could be the aspiring murderer: the over-emotional butcher (Chris O'Dowd), drug-addict doctor (Aidan Gillen), ladies-man African (Isaach De Bankole), shifty millionaire (Dylan Moran), eccentric fisherman (M. Emmet Walsh).
Intriguingly, it never really matters who issued the threat (James has a pretty good idea), because that's not the point of the film. McDonagh is exploring bigger ideas here, adeptly mixing riotously funny dialogue with startlingly bleak emotions. The film's languid pace nearly lulls us to sleep, then wakes us up with another sparky scene-stealing performance from the gifted cast. Gleeson is wonderfully muted, expressing more with an exhausted sigh than most actors can manage with a Shakespearean monologue. His moments with Reilly crackle with honest emotion, and the deceptively simple scene between father and son actors Brendan and Domhnall is a heart-stopper.
But then this is a movie that's packed with surprises, as each encounter plays out for both comical and dramatic impact in a gorgeous coastal landscape. As it deepens, the film takes on the tone of a fable, offering profound insight into emotions that are both human and divine. The ultimate question is why the Christian church is so obsessed with sin, when Christ's message was about forgiveness and love. And it's this level of thoughtfulness that gives the final scenes such a potent kick.
Run time: 102 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th April 2014
Box Office USA: $3.6M
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight
Production compaines: Irish Film Board, Lipsync Productions, Octagon Films, Reprisal Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 129 Rotten: 16
IMDB: 7.5 / 10
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Screenwriter: John Michael McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson as Father James Lavelle, Chris O'Dowd as Jack Brennan, Kelly Reilly as Fiona Lavelle, Aidan Gillen as Dr. Frank Harte, Dylan Moran as Michael Fitzgerald, Isaach De Bankolé as Simon, M. Emmet Walsh as The Writer, Marie-Josée Croze as Teresa, Domhnall Gleeson as Freddie Joyce, David Wilmot as Father Leary, Gary Lydon as Inspector Stanton, Killian Scott as Milo Herlihy, Orla O'Rourke as Veronica Brennan, Owen Sharpe as Leo, David McSavage as Bishop Garret Montgomery, Michael Og Lane as Mícheál, Mark O'Halloran as Prison Officer