As topical as it is controversial, Antonia Bird's first feature tackles the contradictions and conflicts at the heart of the taboo subjects of sexuality in the priesthood, and touched off a seeming 'holy war' upon its release in the US.
Repressing a potential minefield of desires, Father Greg, an idealistic and conservative young Catholic priest, is assigned a new parish in working-class Liverpool. Initially shocked, then continually challenged by his older, more liberal superior, Father Matthew, Father Greg faces a crisis.
The confidentiality of the confessional forces a vexing moral dilemma after a young girl tells the novice cleric of her father's sexual abuse, and Greg's difficulties are further exacerbated as he struggles to hold hostage to doctrine his own emerging gay sexuality.
Deeply thoughtful, with performances that breathe life into its characters, Priest transcends its weighty themes. Frank, but not sensationalist, Priest is as much an assessment of the rigours of commitment as it a critique of celibacy and other constrictive codes of behaviour. The film resonates with an emotional honesty that is reminicent of the fine work of Ken Loach, and transforms mere topicality into a challenging, yet intimate portrait of faith and human fallibility.