PARK CITY - John Michael McDonagh's "Calvary" was one of my most anticipated titles heading into Sundance, and with the festival at a close, it's among the films my mind returns to most often.  The Irish writer-director's follow-up to the raucous cop comedy "The Guard" -- also a Park City premiere a few years back -- has a sharper, more complex comic flavor, taking on matters of faith, morality and mortality in the story of a Catholic priest (Brendan Gleeson) threatened with murder by one of his own troubled parishioners.

Church matters are frequently a source of satire in cinema, but rare is the film that probes religion with sincere interest in the faithful -- whilst maintaining a very Irish sense of irony. Adventurously acquired by Fox Searchlight, "Calvary" stands to become something of a conversation piece on the art house circuit later this year, while Gleeson's beautifully shaded performance has potential to be in the year-end awards conversation.

Sadly, due to illness, Gleeson could not make it to Sundance to present his career-best work; happily, McDonagh and ever-hilarious co-star Chris O'Dowd -- whose supporting role is small but critical -- were on hand. We got together to talk about finding the film's unusual comic tone, why comic actors are expected to go dramatic but not vice versa... and O'Dowd's vision for a sexed-up "Of Mice and Men" on stage with James Franco. (We may not be equally serious on all these topics.)

Check out our chat above, and read my review of "Calvary" here.


Guy Lodge is a South African-born critic and sometime screenwriter. In addition to his work at In Contention, he is a freelance contributor to Variety, Time Out, Empire and The Guardian. He lives well beyond his means in London.