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Priest is a 1994 Britishmarker drama film directed by Antonia Bird. The screenplay by Jimmy McGovern focuses on a Roman Catholic priest as he struggles with two issues that precipitate a crisis of faith.

Plot

Father Greg Pilkington, newly assigned to St. Mary's parish in inner-city Liverpoolmarker, is startled to discover Father Matthew Thomas is engaged in a sexual relationship with rectory housekeeper Maria Kerrigan. Moreover, Father Thomas is a left-wing radical and an outspoken proponent of Liberation Theology, leading his to constant clashes and bickering with the Bishop—who nevertheless appreciates his abilities.

While the young protagonist's personal traditional conservatism and religious beliefs are offended by the older priest's blatant disregard for his vow of celibacy, he struggles with his own homosexual urges, especially after he meets Graham at a local gay hangout and the two embark on a physical relationship.

Meanwhile, student Lisa Unsworth has confided she is the victim of sexual abuse by her father, who confirms her story, but both have revealed their secret in the confessional, and Father Greg is required to honor the sanctity of the Sacrament of Penance and not reveal what he has been told, despite the fact the girl is suffering emotionally and physically (the film makes a mistake in that although in the confessional, the father was not asking for forgiveness and even declared that he was going to continue sinning: The priest thus has every right to call the police). He tries to warn her mother to keep a close watch on her, but the naive woman believes her daughter is safe while in the care of her husband.

When Mrs. Unsworth discovers her husband molesting Lisa and realizes the priest knew what was happening, she verbally lashes out at him. Adding to his torment is his arrest for engaging in sexual activity with Graham in a parked car. When he pleads guilty to the charge, the story is headlined on the front page of the local newspaper and, unable to face his parishioners, Father Greg relocates to a remote rural parish headed by a disapproving and unforgiving priest. Father Matthew convinces him to return to St. Mary's, and the two preside over a Mass that is disrupted by the loud protests of those opposed to Father Greg's presence on the altar. Father Matthew demands they leave the chapel. The two priests then begin to distribute the Eucharist, but the remaining parishioners ignore Father Greg and line up to receive communion from Father Matthew. Lisa finally approaches the younger priest, and the two fall into each other's arms sobbing. In effect, reversing the traditional division of roles set out by the Church, it is the lay person who grants absolution and forgiveness to the priest.

Production

The film was shot on location in Blundellsandsmarker, Liverpool, Londonmarker, and Manchestermarker.

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker in September 1994. It went into general release in the UK on March 17, 1995 and into limited release in the US the following week. Opening on eight screens, it earned $113,430 on its opening weekend, and eventually grossed $4,165,845 in the US.

Cast



Critical reception

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film one star out of a possible four, calling the screenplay "shallow and exploitative." He added, "The movie argues that the hidebound and outdated rules of the church are responsible for some people (priests) not having sex although they should, while others (incestuous parents) can keep on having it although they shouldn't. For this movie to be described as a moral statement about anything other than the filmmaker's prejudices is beyond belief."

Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle called it "an exceptional movie," "powerful drama," and "a curiously inspiring statement about faith and morality." He added, "This film is extraordinary for the themes it explores—sometimes with delicious humor—beyond the obvious . . . The movie becomes a fascinating glimpse at a vast subject—intolerance vs. understanding. There's some preachiness in Priest, and yet you go away feeling the embrace of something lovely and spiritual."

Gary Kamiya of The San Francisco Examiner observed, "After watching this film, you feel as if Martin Luther had hammered every one of his 95 theses onto various parts of your anatomy, using dull thumbtacks. And although Priest is not without intelligence, humor and pathos, in the end it's little more than a tendentious melodrama. One can sympathize with [its] progressive politics . . . and still feel that director Antonia Bird and screenwriter Jimmy McGovern have made things much too easy for themselves . . . Priest is less a work of art than an Op-Ed piece; as such, whatever virtues it has exist in the sociological sphere, not the aesthetic."

Rita Kempley of The Washington Post said, "Part soap opera and part propaganda, this sometimes affecting drama presents a one-sided examination of the church's teachings on homosexuality and the celibacy of its clergy . . . Roache, a veteran of British stage and television, gives a stirring performance, which crests in the film's transcendent finale. Beautifully sustained by the actors and well directed by Bird, this last scene is an emotional epiphany for both the characters and the audience, all bathed in the balm of forgiveness."

The American Life League protested the film, and has boycotted Disney movies ever since.

The film is banned in Vatican Citymarker.

Awards and nominations

The film was nominated for the BAFTA Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film but lost to Shallow Grave. It won the People's Choice Award at the 1994 Toronto International Film Festival, was named Best New British Feature at the 1994 Edinburgh International Film Festival, and won the Teddy Award at the 1995 Berlin International Film Festival. Linus Roache was nominated for the 1996 Chlotrudis Award for Best Acror but lost to Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking.

References

  1. BoxOfficeMojo.com
  2. Chicago Sun-Times review
  3. San Francisco Chronicle review
  4. San Francisco Examiner review
  5. Washington Post review


External links




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