I watched the 2014 movie Calvary last night. I often put movies in my Netflix queue after reading about them online, and I learned about this movie from Richard Beck’s blog. Beck called it “one of the most profoundly Christian movies I have ever seen”, and so I was unsure about whether or not to put it in my queue. I watch Christian movies myself, but my Mom and her husband are not really into religiousy, evangelical movies, and, as of late, I have tried to get movies that all three of us can enjoy together. But I saw that the movie Calvary had a high Rotten Tomatoes rating and a largely positive critical response, so I figured that it might be a good movie.
I’m not going to trudge through a description of the plot, except to say that it is about an Irish priest with feet of clay who listens to people. Many evangelicals may object to some of what the priest advises: the priest suggests to a frustrated, socially-awkward young man who wants to get laid that he move to the big city, where there are looser women. But the priest also says things that a number of evangelicals may like: that God is merciful, and that it is never too late to start anew. The priest is a loving presence to his community, but he is far from perfect. He’s still a good man, though.
This movie is different from a lot of evangelical movies that are out there. A lot of evangelical movies are pretty heavy-handed and dogmatic in their presentation of evangelical Christianity. In Calvary, though, we see a priest who tries to live the Gospel and sometimes stumbles. Themes of sin, forgiveness, love, calling, and second chances are still there.
There are many evangelical Christians who regard evangelical Christian movies as a means of evangelism, a way to bring people to saving faith in Jesus Christ. But it doesn’t often work that way, or so it seems to me. The Christian movie God’s Not Dead, for example, did well at the box office, but my understanding is that this was because evangelicals went to see it in droves. Critics, on the other hand, panned the movie, and a number of non-believers rolled their eyes at it.
But Calvary is a movie with Christian messages, and yet non-believers can appreciate it as a quality movie.