Priest Review

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A priest struggles to reconcile his conflicting love for God and for his homosexual lover whilst becoming embroiled in the plight of a young girl being abused by her father.


Despite being set against the stark, sullen atmosphere of inner-city Liverpool, this eschews Ken Loach-style kitchen-sink social realism and tackles big themes from Catholic guilt to gay sex to child abuse. And it is just such themes - as scripted by Cracker scribe Jimmy McGovern - that give an edge of hysteria, glamour and excitement to an otherwise gaunt examination of working class Liverpudlian values.

The film opens with an old, broken-down priest battering the windows of the local bishopric with a crucifix and never lets up from there. His replacement, Father Greg (Roache), a young idealist, is appalled by the worldliness of his colleague, Father Matthew (Wilkinson), who sings karaoke in the local pub, delivers politically-inflected sermons, and sleeps with his housekeeper (Tyson).

The clash of values between the two priests is initially the stuff of comedy, but as soon as Greg takes a gay lover and hears the confession of a young girl being sexually abused by her father, things really begin to heat up.

Director Bird grafts the stiff messages on to a narrative chock full of sin, punishment and redemption which delivers a real emotional punch by the end of the film. It is to Bird's credit that she manages to smooth the edges of McGovern's sometimes unbalanced script with some elegant camera-work, adding a much needed sense of social place to the platefuls of hard-bitten controversy. What emerges is an uneven but powerful picture.

Unevan but powerful film that is held together by Bird's elegant direction.