I have noticed in recent films a welcome focus on relationships other than the romantic; friendship and filial love have both been highlighted. Mr. Morgan’s Last Love focuses on the latter, although not with enough depth to make it a good movie.
In this story we see retired American philosophy professor Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine) developing a friendship with young, free-spirited dance teacher, Pauline Lauby (Clemence Poesy). Matthew is a lonely widower mourning the death of his wife, Joan. Joan loved France and it is because of her that Matthew continues to live in Paris after her death despite his not being able (or willing) to speak French and despite his adult children Kate (a brusque Gillian Anderson) and Miles (Justin Kirk) living in the USA.
Matthew meets Pauline by chance on the bus one day and this warm-hearted young woman readily welcomes him as a friend. An unusual relationship develops, with both welcoming the other into their very different lives. When a depressed Matthew tries to take his own life Pauline and his children rush to his bedside. Miles especially has a rather tortured relationship with his father while Pauline sees in Matthew the father figure she lost long ago. All three learn lessons about themselves and each other as they make meaningful connections along the way.
Despite these deepening attachments Matthew remains depressed throughout – shown starkly in a pile of unmoved, unread newspapers in his apartment.
I found this relentless gloominess tiresome, a feeling not even the lovely Clemence Poesy or the appealing foreign setting could lift. Michael Caine’s American accent was just horrible and I was rather glad when Mr. Morgan’s Last Love was over.
Mr. Morgan’s Last Love opens at Cinema Nouveau Theatres in South Africa on 12 September 2014.
Michael Caine and Clémence Poésy in Mr Morgan’s Last Love. Photo: supplied by Ster Kinekor
Set in rural Ireland, Calvary is the penetrating story of a Catholic priest, Father James Lavelle (a brilliant Brendan Gleeson), his ministry and his treatment at the hands of his parishioners. Sweeping views of a beautiful, but empty landscape focus in on a small Irish village and a select number of characters, echoing a story that is large in scope but detailed in its focus.
The context is framed by the faceless confession of one of James’s parishioners and the Father’s face-to-face meeting with the same man exactly a week later. In the initial conversation, the confessor tells James that as a child he was abused by a Catholic Priest. He vows to wreak his revenge by killing the, albeit innocent, Father James. What follows is a week of Father James continuing with his normal ministry, but in the face of mounting animosity.
This film could be about the Catholic Church’s sordid history of covered-up child abuse. It could be about its exoneration. It could be about man’s loss of faith in the centuries-old Catholic faith. Or man’s desperate clinging to a purpose higher than himself. On the face of it, the film could simply reflect the ironic Christian reversal of a priest “crucified” for the church’s sins against its own.
Calvary is about all of these and much more. It’s a story about real people and their real, individual struggles. From Father Leary, to the atheist doctor; from the homosexual policeman, to the oversexed housewife; from Father James’s daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly), to others in between.
Every individual is a complex, well-developed character with a past, and with deep serious issues. Father James is just the counterpoint in this well-balanced, exquisitely acted film.
Calvary is a profound film that is a credit to director and writer John Michael McDonagh. It opens at NuMetro cinemas in South Africa on 12 September.
Brendan Gleeson finely plays the role of Father James Lavelle in Calvary. Photo: Creative Commons.