We had seen a trailer for this film when at an independent/art house theatre in St. Louis this summer where we had gone to see Boyhood. We’ve been waiting for months to see it. It just came out on video yesterday so we were excited to finally see it. Unfortunately we were disappointed, despite an outstanding performance by Brendan Gleeson as Father James.
The film is set in a small town in Ireland. It is often shot darkly, with the exception of the scenes shot along the beach which were beautiful. We had difficulty clearly making out the dialogue throughout, due to the Irish accents and/or the dialogue not recorded clearly and/or our television needing a sound bar.
The film opens with Father James hearing a confession on Sunday. It wasn’t someone confessing their own sins, but terrible sexual abuse done against the one in the confessional. Father James doesn’t know what to say to the man who has been so terribly wounded. He suggests taking the matters to the authorities, but is told that the priest is dead. The confessor says that there would be no good coming from killing a bad priest anyhow. No, what he will do is to kill a good priest. He will kill Father James, and tells him he will do it on the beach next Sunday.
Father James takes the threat seriously, believing he knows who it was who has threatened him. He talks to his superior, but not to the police. He tries to carry out his duties through the week until the following Sunday. But he has quite a broken (and mostly unlikable) congregation, with much talk about suicide and infidelity. M. Emmet Walsh as the elderly writer, is one of the few likeable characters in the film. Almost everyone drinks in the film, including Father James as Sunday approaches. We don’t see him turning to God during this time however. During the week his church is burned to the ground and his beloved dog has his throat slit.
Kelly Reilly stars as Father James’ daughter Fiona (from a previous marriage). She has recently attempted suicide. The two love each other, but she feels that he abandoned her to become a priest after her mother (his wife) died. She felt that she had lost both parents at once.
We didn’t feel like the film had any redeeming value; it was quite depressing. The one reason to see the film would be to see Gleeson’s Oscar worthy performance. The film is rated “R” for language.