- Actors: Linus Roache, Tom Wilkinson, Robert Carlyle, Cathy Tyson, Lesley Sharp
- Directors: Antonia Bird
This film is set in a Merseyside parish whose parish priest lives with the house-keeper, a parishioner defends (in confession) his incestuous relationship with his daughter, and the central character is homosexual. Standard family entertainment, in other words. The night I attended, the cinema was crowded – so, I was told, had the previous showing been.
It’s not a very good film, mainly because it has too many stories to tell. If the writer (Jimmy McGovern) had the time span of a television series, he might have been able to work out the three main story-lines (and the host of sub-plots) without resorting to melodrama.
“Father Greg” (played by Linus Roache, who is a bit a wooden-top aSean actor) is a smug – and clearly middle-class product of a seminary. He is sent to a heavily working-class parish run by a Guardian-reading pinko – this character has all the substance of a cardboard cut-out, but Tom Wilkinson plays him so well (he’s even the right shape!) that he is almost the centre of gravity of the film.
Roache’s character comes to terms with his superior’s domestic arrangements a piece too quickly to be believable – a real “Father Greg” would have gone running to the bishop. His transformation into a leather-jacket-clad disco-bunny is also utterly unbelievable. We had been prepared by advance publicity; but if this had been a standard, un-hyped movie, most people would have sniggered at this point: it was as subtly modulated as a poke in the eye.
The narrative isn’t really important, the film passes a number of hours, and the end is meretricious, not say a mite tasteless. The script sets up a number of problems in modern (Roman) Catholic culture and morality, and the director resolves them with melodramatic crudity.
One couldn’t help noticing some aspects of modern manners. The parish priest and the house-keeper are seen only in cosy domesticity, whereas Father Greg and his lover (played by Robert Carlysle) are shown naked. And the choreography leaves nothing to the imagination. I don’t think they were engaging in safer sex – could a young priest brought up in the shadow of the Polish Pope use a condom, one wonders? (Robert Carlysle manages to be beautiful and sexy without his clothes, a very difficult task).
I am afraid the best description of this film is that it is a curate’s egg: good in parts. Or, to be more precise, it is flawed by a disparity in the talents of the people who made it.
[Richard Lyttle – 1995]