We laughed. We laughed till there were tears streaming, did Leigh, reclining opposite, as well as I. We probably fed a bit off each other – proving again how our senses of humour are usually in tune. We surely missed at least ten minutes of the show, holding our bellies till we could catch our breath – but a prolonged chortle is therapeutic. Proven fact. Billy will do that to one – as he has been doing for decades with his stand-up, movies and riding his three-wheeler to various locales for television. In this it was his tale of the ninety-degreed hunchback stiff and the issues that ensued trying to fit such a body into the narrow confines of a coffin – and the mayhem that developed when it all patently came unstuck during the viewing as the poor old bugger sprung upwards to attention. The way the Big Yin delivered it, in that lilting Scottish brogue he possesses, laughing along at the hilarity of it all, was, as always, priceless. It certainly defeated all the barriers I possess to uninhibited guffawry.
The topic of this ABC offering was something unavoidable, the thought of which we do not relish – death. This is not usually a topic redolent in levity – unless Billy Connolly is your guide. But his journey to look at the excesses and strangenesses involved also possessed pathos, a liberal dose of sadness and that song. You know the one – the one that ranks Number 3 in the hit parade of tunes to be played as one’s ultimate send off. It’s the one that comforted Christ in the irreverent pisstake that was ‘The Life of Brian’ and, along with ‘The Lumberjack Song’, is the Monty’s greatest contribution to the history of music. It was delivered by a still fine voiced, twinkly eyed Eric Idle, with Billy accompanying.
Sadly, though, our Billy is, like the rest of us mere mortals, not indestructible. He’s been quiet of late on our screens and for good reason. In the one week he was diagnosed with both prostate cancer and Parkinsons – the latter by a Tasmanian specialist who happened to notice his unsteady gait whilst in transit at an airport. The prognoses aren’t as bad as they could have been and we are reliably informed that he’ll be around for a while yet – thanks be to She in the sky. Once ageless, our beloved Billy is now showing everyone of his seventy-two years. In ‘The Big Send-off’ that marvellous mane is now snowy white, his face drawn and he’s seemingly lost his physical bounce, but certainly not his verbal. A world without Billy doesn’t bear thinking about. In his eyes, though, there is still that sparkle, still a sprinkle of forever-dust. And with this small screen offering he is still deliciously delighted by the absurdities of life on this planet. Long will he continue to point them out for our benefit.
Now neither I, nor I suggest Billy, or even you, dear reader, can possibly know the time, exact setting or, to a lesser degree, the cause of our ultimate demise. But what if that were not the case? What if, indeed, it was a mere seven days away? The location was to be a sandy strand and you possessed a strong suspicion as to whom would be administering your coup de grace.. Then, knowing these facts, which don’t involve languishing on death row, what if added there was an out clause if so desired – a possibility of avoiding it – well, you would take the out, wouldn’t you? That, though, was not entirely a given in the magnificent Irish movie ‘Calvary’. It is a stunner. Here there’s Chris O’Dowd and Dylan Moran as you’ve never seen them before. I’ve waxed lyrical on the charms of Kelly Reilly in another recent blog and yet again, she lights up the screen in this. Towering above them all, though, is Brendan Gleeson, in surely what will become his signature role. As the village priest he is informed, in the confessional, that this is his last week on earth and is given the precise details of his date with the hereafter. Sounds illogical? No, there is a good reason, even if Father James has no record of the usual misdemeanours associated with men of the cloth. He’s guiltless – and that’s the point of the exercise.
The narrative follows him through his last remaining week and we meet all the likely suspects – what a mixed bag they are! He has some big decisions to make, does our good man of the church – and not all to do with the should I go or should I stay quandary. In some quarters ‘Calvary’ is being pushed as a comedic gem, but there’s not too much humour to be had in the way the movie concludes. I was stunned. The cinema-goers I shared it with were stunned. It was so powerful – but there was also redemption at hand as well. The ending was almost too much for this punter to bear – wait for it if you dare! But do see it if it comes a-calling near you.
The Trailer to ‘Calvary’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zl4a7TIw6YM