Harrowing tale of priest-baiting in Sligo

A film that demands to be seen

Calvary (15A)
Henry David Thoreau once (or even twice) said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation”. On the evidence of this film they all seem to live in Sligo.

Good art means dropping a rose petal in the Grand Canyon and hearing an echo. Bad art is pummelling people with a sledgehammer for 90 minutes and then expecting them to respond to a would-be cathartic finale by way of purgation.
Those of you familiar with the stomach-churning excesses of Martin McDonagh won't be surprised to learn that such striving after effect runs in the family. This film has been written and directed by his brother John Michael and evinces the same adolescent shock tactics Martin generally employs to 'impress' audiences.

It has Brendan Glesson playing Fr James Lavelle, a decent man driven to distraction by the anger and sleazy superciliousness of his parishioners in a seminal week of his life as he tries to understand the attempted suicide of his daughter and bond with her. (A married man, he entered the priesthood after his wife died).
Is such anger representative of the feelings of the Irish populace towards the clergy here? In certain sections of society I would imagine it is but McDonagh's mistake is that he makes nearly all his characters full of resentment, thereby detracting from his effect instead of intensifying it.
In the first scene of this pulverising film an unidentified man who's been sexually abused in youth goes into a confession box and tells Fr Lavelle he intends to kill him to avenge this. From this point on what we're watching isn't so much a whodunit as a 'who's-going-to-do it.'
There are any number of possible contenders. Could it be the guard? Or the obnoxious barman played by Pat Shortt? Or Dylan Moran's gentrified depressive? Or Chris O'Dowd, the cynical butcher? Or the arrogant mechanic having an affair with O'Dowd's promiscuous wife? It could even be the sexually frustrated young man who decides to join the army and kill people to stop himself committing suicide (as you would).

There's an argument to be made for the fact that the film is a modern-day Western, with Gleeson as the Gary Cooper/Clint Eastwood/Charles Bronson character who finally cracks under the strain of being the whipping boy for ecclesiastical ills as he traverses his via dolorosa towards McDonagh's metaphorical Golgotha.
The sets are stark like in a Western, the cinematography raw and spartan. All the emotions are writ large. This is both the film's main strength and its main weakness. Most of the characters seem to speak in quotations; they're not really people as much as pegs on which McDonagh hangs his points. They even have philosophical discussions at the point of death, which would be laughable in any other film.
McDonagh has presented us with a decadent society which offloads such decadence onto the mistakes made by the Church. His characters range from the blisteringly real to caricatures one might find in the likes of Father. Ted. At times contrived and pretentious, Calvary still rivets you to the screen in every scene. It's a strictly adult work awash with irreverence, sacrilege, black humour and sexual explicitness. It will either cause you to rage or blow you away – or both. It leaves a sick aftertaste but it demands to be seen.
*** Good