Originally to be released in America on Good Friday (Miramax, caving to pressure, scuttled that witty idea), Antonia Bird’s shapely, impassioned drama is actually about as anti-Catholic as the Pope — though Catholics with ingrained ideas about the Church will surely disagree.Father Greg Pilkington (Linus Roache) has just arrived at a working-class parish in Liverpool, replacing an elderly priest who has left the Church in a bitter rage. Greg soon finds himself subject to his own rage. Living with the freewheeling Father Matthew (the appealing Tom Wilkinson), who enjoys guiltless sex with his housekeeper (Cathy Tyson), the young, chiselled Greg seems a parody of prim Catholic rectitude — until we learn that he’s covering for his own sexual lapses. Late at night, Greg hops onto his bicycle and scoots down to a gay bar.
As if that weren’t burden enough, a sad-faced girl confesses to Greg that her father has been making her “do things.” As Greg wrestles with his faith and his impulses as a human being, and Matthew looks on and tries to get him to look at the big picture, Priest becomes didactic but satisfying. Greg’s true sin, it turns out, is to deny his honest response to people — to fellow suffering humans — in the name of the Church. The movie suggests that priests are pushed into the unnatural, un-Christian position of being above all others.A provocative film, with persuasive work by Roache.