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Film review: Gleeson’s wonderful performance anchors the otherwise uneven ‘Calvary’

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Brendan Gleeson, left, is a man on a mission in the religious parable Calvary.

Three stars

Calvary Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd. Directed by John Michael McDonagh. Rated R. Opens Friday.

Brendan Gleeson is outstanding in John Michael McDonagh’s uneven religious parable Calvary, a bleak but sometimes darkly funny look at the last days of a small-town Irish priest. Warned by one of his parishioners that he will be murdered in one week’s time (as punishment for priests’ molestation of children, a crime of which he is innocent), Gleeson’s Father James devotes himself to making the rounds of the eccentric, damaged residents of his town, doing his best to console or counsel them. He also spends time with his equally troubled adult daughter (Kelly Reilly), who’s recovering from a suicide attempt. While Father James is a complicated but ultimately decent man, the other characters are more one-dimensional, and McDonagh can’t quite fit them all into a compelling narrative. Father James’ march toward death has a certain poetic power, even if the steps along the way aren’t all worth taking.

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