Priest is an absolutely riveting, made-for-BBC slice-of-life drama that’s a controversial look at incest, gay love and the Catholic church. The pic is the first full-length feature from theater and TV vet Antonia Bird.
Father Greg (Linus Roache), a young priest brimming with lofty ideals, is in for a rude shock to his value system when he arrives in a tough, inner-city Liverpool parish. First there’s his colleague Father Matthew (Tom Wilkinson), a middle-aged social activist prone to giving rabble-rousing, left-wing speeches from the pulpit. Even worse, Father Matthew is openly breaking his vows of celibacy and living with a woman.
But the young priest’s naive sense of right-and-wrong soon begins to come apart at the seams. One night, he switches from his day-job robes into a leather jacket and heads out to a local gay bar, where he picks up a guy. The ethical horizon becomes even more cloudy when a young girl tells him in the confessional that her father is sexually abusing her. The priest feels he can’t help the girl because it would break the seal of silence of the confession.
Roache will turn heads with his intense perf in a difficult role, and the rest of the cast get the job done with gritty flair. Liverpool writer Jimmy McGovern’s script is refreshingly down-to-earth, and it’s his willingness to generate laughs from even the direst situations that makes the pic so accessible.