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Film / Priest (1994)

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A 1994 British drama film directed by Antonia Bird, with a screenplay by Jimmy McGovern.

As Father Greg Pilkington (Linus Roache) arrives in his new parish in Liverpool, he is shocked to discovers that Father Matthew Thomas has a (sexual) relationship with the rectory housekeeper. Father Greg struggles with his homosexual feelings and embarks on a relationship-of-sorts with Graham (Robert Carlyle).

During confession, a young girl tells Father Greg that she is being abused by her father, who later confirms it. Since he believes the confidentiality of the confession covers everything he hears in the confession booth, Father Greg feels he cannot tell the authorities about the abuse.

The combination of issues lead Father Greg to question the faith he has based his life on.

No relation to the 2011 film of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Fourteen-years-old Lisa Unsworth is sexually abused by her father, and he doesn't care a bit about the extreme mental scarring her puts her through.
  • Artistic License – Religion: The seal of the confessional only applies if you are genuinely remorseful and contriteful. The girl's father? He's bragging about it and declares his intent to do it again. Father Greg should have had the cops on him as soon as he stepped out of the booth.
    • He does make a point of repeatedly asking Lisa to be allowed to talk to her mother or to the police about it, and she declines it every time — Father Greg is keeping up the seal of Lisa’s confessional, not of her father’s.
  • Auto Erotica: Greg and Graham engage in this and promptly get arrested.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Greg calls out Father Matthew for his breach of vows because he has a relationship to Maria, the housekeeper. Not long after, Greg starts his affair with Graham.
  • Confessional: Twice; the first scene is Lisa's confession about what her father does to her, the second is the father himself gloating about his doings. Father Greg pleads with him to look for therapy for Lisa's sake, to no effect.
  • Crisis of Faith: Oh, boy, and how. Desperate about what Lisa had to suffer due to his inaction, Greg has severe doubts about keeping up the seal of confessional which results in him shouting angrily at a Jesus icon about the rules that bind him.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Greg starts out as a massive ice queen, being generally very restrained in showing feelings and a bit arrogant about his conservative religious convictions. The friendship with Father Matthew and working in the parish help him thaw, and the more his own flaws and weaknesses get known, the closer he gets to giving up on his attitude.
  • Gayngst: Father Greg doesn't deal well with being gay, keeping his lover at arm's length in an attempt to not develop genuine feelings for him and declaring both Graham and himself sinners. Then he's Forced Out of the Closet and his fears show to be justified — his parishioners make their contempt for him clear.
  • Gratuitous Latin: The priest who heads the rural parish that Greg flees to has a bad case of this. Greg gets his own back, though.
    Greg: Abi et futue te ipsum, sordide senex. Lat. 
  • Heteronormative Crusader: There are quite some of the parishioners who start to ostracize Greg after his gay affair gets known. Near the end of the movie, they get very vocal about their disapproval of Greg's presence at the altar, and while Father Matthew counters them angrily, Greg just sort of stands there in defeat and endures it.
  • Hot for Preacher: Graham, obviously. It's reciprocal, but leads to problems for both of them.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: A faked one. When Father Matthew visits Greg at the parish he has fled to, the head priest insists that they keep the door open while talking. Father Matthew is annoyed about this until Greg points out: "Matthew, he's chaperoning us." On which Father Matthew starts groaning and grunting loudly to piss the insufferable priest off. And Greg decides to play along. It's the first good laugh he has in a damn long time.
  • Interrupted Suicide: After he's outed, his reputation completely ruined, and the guilt about Lisa's suffering is engulfing him, Greg swallows an overdose of painkillers. Father Matthew catches on in time and has him brought to the hospital for a gastric lavage.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: Greg ends up being The Confidant for Lisa Unsworth and her abusive father both, and hates it; because Lisa has asked him to not speak to anyone about it, he feels bound to keep up the seal of the confessional.
  • Local Soundtrack: "You'll Never Walk Alone", Liverpool FC's anthem is sung by the church choir. An instrumental version plays on the soundtrack at the end of the film.
  • Mama Bear: When Mrs Unsworth finds out about the her husband's abuse of Lisa, she descends into an incoherent rage and chases him out of the house at knifepoint.
  • Oop North: Set in Liverpool.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Greg gets one from the abused girl's mother after she figures it all out.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Greg Pilkington. The conflict is pretty natural since he's a gay Catholic priest, but the way he treats his sex partner is still pretty appalling, and Father Matthew calls him out on it.
  • Vow of Celibacy: Father Greg starts to question his faith after embarking on a sexual relationship despite his vows. (He's also gay, which makes it even more forbidden.)
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In a talk with Father Matthew, Greg states that he despises his lover Graham for seducing him to sin, causing Father Matthew to rebuke him sharply.