In confessional, a parishioner tells Father James he will kill him in a fortnight because Father James is good man, an excellent priest,. His murder would be a shock to the church that countenanced the man's boyhood sexual abuse. Despite knowing who his threat is, Father James spends the time ministering to his parishioners including his killer's domestic issues, preserving the sacred privacy of the confessional. He gets a gun but at the last minute throws it into the sea. He plans to escape to Dublin but changes his mind as he boards the plane. What prompts that change is seeing two airport employees idly chatting as they lean over a coffin. Inside is a good man who was killed in a car crash with drunken teenagers. Father James is strengthened by seeing the casual way in which that victimized innocence is treated. There is no respect there, no overall sense of holiness or decency, just two yobs leaning over a box. That revives Father James's conscience and he returns to face his fate. The dead man's wife is the only character here who has no crisis of faith. She knows her husband was a good man. Though in pain, she accepts his what we would think is Absurd random death. She appreciates the kindness the strangers have shown her. Serenely she is flying him home. Father James's daughter, who looks like her thin, delicate, wan grows through the film from her shaky recovery from a suicide attempt to her own serenity, when she goes to the prison to talk to her father's killer. As Father James told his daughter, the most undervalued virtue is forgiveness. After a broken romance caused her to despair, now her father's sacrifice brings her a surprising peace. She forgives the troubled killer and can then forgive herself the lesser failures she has magnified. So when Father James goes back to confront his killer he is performing his function. He learned that from the good man of abused acceptance in the coffin. In performing that role he like Jesus expiates the other's sin. He saves his killer's soul by exorcising the abused boy's rage and helplessness. For the killer to forgive his abuser, the church and ultimately himself for the murder, though, the butcher needs the model of the priest's daughter's forgiveness. That distinguishes this killer from the one Father James visits in prison, a cannibal who feels nothing. In contrast, with the exception of the new widow, every character suffers from the wealthy landowner's confessed "disassociation." The daughter is adrift, unmoored by the loss of her father to the priesthood after she lost her mother to a lingering death. The campy male prostitute constantly plays a gangster grotesque to avoid making any human connection. He's most comfortable crisply shooting pool. The landowner at one point takes down a treasured painting from his wall and urinates on it. Abandoned by his family and even his servant to whom he later admits he never felt attached anyway his wealth is meaningless. His 100,000 Euro check to the church means nothing to him, neither as gesture nor as value.The painting is Holbein's The Ambassadors, which famously shows two wealthy overdressed men, a display of secular opulence, with in the foreground an anamorphic image of a skull that can only be seen from the side. In this brilliant composition, the askew view from the side undermines the impressive secularity seen from the front. A Christ hangs obscured in a distant corner. "Calvary" of course means "the place of the skull" the place where we confront our mortality, as Christ assumed his. This painting is an emblem of the film but with a twist. From the frontal view our impression is of a troubled, pained, helpless secular existence, where even a good priest is immediately suspect for chatting with a little girl, where the Catholic church stands condemned for its greed and its abandonment of its children, for its hypocrisy. But viewed from a different angle, from Father James's perspective, there survives the reminder of grace, of forgiveness, of connection. One more point about that painting. It famously hangs in London's National Gallery. In no way could this character own it. So what he's so proud of having spent so much meaningless money to buy, what he thinks he is so dramatically despoiling to demonstrate his power, is a fake. He was had when he bought it and his every estimation of it is wrong. The fake is as dissociated from its original promise as the character is. There are three priests here. The young colleague and the older bishop look the same: thin, bloodless, lifeless, with no spark or energy to suggest a calling. In contrast Father James has the physical bulk of a Falstaff and erupts into that rogue's drunken violence on the eve of his mortal test. Father James is a man of flesh and passion. Having had a daughter before he became a priest, he knows the flesh. He knows love, so he doesn't need a picture to remember his wife. He has been a drinker. Behind his adoration of the beyond is a full fathoming of the here. He can cry for his murdered dog the way he couldn't cry for his church's young victims, for he too knew disassociation.