Directed by Antonia Bird (Face, Ravenous), Priest is a movie that questions the canon of the Catholic church. This is something that I feel is totally unnecessary since the whole thing is made up anyways. However, some people take these things seriously. Exploring the relationship between religion and sin, Priest firmly remains on the human side. Without efforts to be one of those boring and preachy movies. This is a powerful slow-burning drama that will transport you into a world that you might not know. A world where rules and regulations are in constant clash with your feelings and ultimately, reality.
And when I say transport you I also mean visually. The dreary industrial city of Liverpool with poor working class houses and depression galore perfectly accompanies the story here. I went into Priest without knowing anything apart from that, so I suggest you do the same. However, I think that it’s inevitable to mention some of the issues like homosexuality, sexuality, pedophilia, and morality.
With a special accent on the morality that binds all these things together stronger than a leather strap-on. Of course, religion and religious institutions are the backdrops for this examination and you could probably guess how that went with the church officials. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights were so outraged by the film’s subject and its release date over the Easter weekend that they called for all their members to boycott anything Disney-related.
Meet Father Greg Pilkington, a young and bright priest who’s just been assigned to St Mary’s parish in Liverpool. As soon as he starts his new job he learns that things in this parish are far from what he was expecting. Greg is also battling with some urges that he managed to keep under control for a long time. However, it seems that he’s unable to do so anymore, leading him to question everything he knows.
To say that Priest is a controversial movie would be an understatement. Any single subject raised here is simply unacceptable to most people, and all of them together create an overload. An overload that will surely make those people actively try not to watch this movie. It’s so funny to think that we all think pedophilia is among the worst crimes in the world but when you combine it with religion it somehow gets a pass.
As you would expect it, performances here were top-notch. Of course, Robert Carlyle and Linus Roache stole the show as the leads. However, we should also mention Tom Wilkinson as Father Matthew Thomas. His character may seem to be on the periphery of the story but I think it hides a very important message. Ahead of its time, Priest a movie that you should watch and if you can play to friends and family who you might feel are in need of some education. It will be hard, but it’s something that we should all be doing if we want to live in a better world.
If you’re looking for movies similar to Priest, I recommend you check out Contracorriente, C.R.A.Z.Y. and Maurice. Connected just by the religious theme I simply have to mention Father Ted. This hilarious television show may be a bit older but it definitely stood the test of time.
Director: Antonia Bird
Writer: Jimmy McGovern
Cast: Linus Roache, Tom Wilkinson, Robert Carlyle, Robert Pugh, James Ellis, Cathy Tyson, Robert Pugh, Paul Barber
Fun Facts: The Catholic Church in Ireland were very vocal about their views, campaigning to stop the theatrical distribution. The film censor didn’t share their views and with an 18 certificate, Priest was ready for theaters. This marked a major turning point in the relationship between the church and the Irish Film Censor board.