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.
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The assisted living home in Dublin, known as the Carrigmore Home for the Disabled, contains a cross-section of impairments, from mild to the barely functional. In the case of Michael Connolly (Steven Robertson), who has grown up there, his cerebral palsy binds him to a wheelchair and to a speech impediment that makes verbal communication all but impossible.
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