FILM REVIEW – Pilgrimage: A medieval thriller with an Irish twist


Just like every year, the programme of the Edinburgh International Film Festival is very diverse. From short movies directed by first-time directors, to long features from some acclaimed producers, but also from movies about music and friendship to psychologic thrillers. Despite the fact that they’re unique in their own way, they have one thing in common: They can’t be put in one category. Pilgrimage, the latest work of the Irish director Brendan Muldowney (Savage, Love Eternal), is no exception to that. Is it a thriller? Historical movie? Action movie? It’s a mixed of all of that.

Set in the 13thcentury Ireland, Pilgrimage is all about a small group of monks who live a solitary lifestyle on a remote Irish coast. On one day, their daily routine gets disturbed by the arrival of a stranger, dressed in the white robes of the Cistercian order, who demands them to go a pilgrimage (which also explains the title of the movie) and to carry a holy and ancient relic to Rome. The group has no choice because ‘Rome has spoken’ and set for Rome but their crusade might not be as easy as they initially thought. Especially not when the relic seems to be very valuable to their enemies, who would do everything to get their hands on it. Even if it doesn’t matter how many lives it would cost. So the story itself Catholic, but it’s very easy to understand, even for non-Catholics, and it’s recognisable. So director Muldowney and writer Jamie Hannigan did a great job regarding that.

They also did a great job working with casting director Daniel Hubbard (The Lord Of The Rings, The Bourne Ultimatum). They cast Tom Holland, very soon to appear on your screens as Spider-Man, as The Novice, a young and good-hearted monk, who offers the real emotional support to all the other characters and who might also be the audience you can identify yourself with. You’ll also recognise Richard Armitage (The Hobbit: An Expected Journey, Spooks) as Raymond De Merville, who might not have the good intentions as it seems at first side. Holland and Armitage really shine in this movie, but the star is without a doubt Jon Bernthal in his role as The Mute, who speaks but only word during the entire movie. Lack of words doesn’t mean lack of presence. His emotional sensitivity, as well as his very robust and extremely violent appearance, are very present during Pilgrimage.

A Catholic story without being too complicated? Check! A great cast? Check! Last but not least, we can also add a wonderful cinematography to that. The movie begins with an astonishing scene. Underneath the burning sun and on a desert beach, a religious martyr is been executed in a violent way. Blood, violence and religion. Yes, that’s how the entire movie can be described. If you’re not up for a very rough movie where every detail (no matter how bloody it is) is showed, then you might want to skip this one. Or if you want to see a romantic movie, then Pilgrimage is a no-go.

Apart from maybe being too gory once in a while, Pilgrimage is a very good movie. All lot of action, the great performances and the very understandable story will make you watch the entire movie. Even when there might be a quiet scene. Didn’t catch it at the Edinburgh Film Festival? Then you have a date with Pilgrimage on the 11th of August when it’s released in the UK.

Liselotte Vanophem, Celebrity and Film Journalist, Just Celebrity Magazine

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