There's often too much talk about sins and not enough about virtues when it comes to the Catholic Church. Adultery, paedophilia, pre-marital sex, suicide and even felching feature on the list of cardinal sins encompassed by Calvary, highlight the diminishing sway of religion in contemporary society. Once again positioning his lacerating wit against the picturesque backdrop of County Sligo, McDonagh's secular whodunit transcends its generic plot device (the confessor's voice is so recognisable it renders any investigation redundant) and laudably attempts to create a more transcendental, yet tragically droll study of spirituality. Struggling to uphold a sense of decency and decorum in a world of villains and the ubiquitous vilification of the church, Glesson is a warm, yet stoic presence in a town that, through its unnaturally clean lines, idiosyncratic characters and introspective protagonist feels like the setting of a manicured Aki Kaurismäki film.
Despite McDonagh's needlepointed barbs and highfalutin tomfoolery, Calvary does at times struggle to balance its solemn tone with its volatile macabre comedy; its sardonic wit diluted by erroneous scenes of contrived sentiment (is that Enya we can hear cascading from the sweeping wide-angled shots that resemble a Visit Ireland advert?). The lyricism of the script lacks the naturalism of McDonagh's previous work and though the majority of the prose flows well, it feels like frantically scribbled poetry falling off the margins of the page. By interchanging bawdy gaiety and a ponderous attitude to emphasise the film's spiritual message, Calvary feels extremely disjointed, struggling to balance its dualistic tone on top of its oversized ensemble cast. It's a brave leap of faith, taking a weighty subject and approaching it in such a brash and unflinching manner, but whilst McDonagh lands the dismount, you can't help but notice a slight wobble of uncertainty.