Lisa Schwarzbaum
December 01, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Conspiracy of Silence

Current Status
In Season
87 minutes
Jonathan Forbes, Jason Barry
John Deery

We gave it a C

It’s played as a fictional drama with the green sod of Ireland in the background and the black vestments of Irish Catholic priests in the fore. But Conspiracy of Silence, a passionately unsubtle debut from Irish writer-director John Deery, is as stacked as any more secular nonfiction agitprop from the recent election season. The target of Deery?s protest is priestly celibacy, the demand for which, the filmmaker contends, leads otherwise good men of the cloth to terrible downfalls; the paranoia-minded title allows equal time for the suicide of an HIV-positive homosexual priest (Patrick Casey) and the despair of a strapping, devout heterosexual seminarian (Jonathan Forbes) who loves a bonny lass.

Deery moves his players around with little finesse, punishing ”bad” conservative priests with unflattering close-ups and rewarding ”good” enlightened clergy (including Hugh Bonneville as a leading liberal) with warm portraits; a nervous but intrepid journalist assisting the cause of reform is given an empathetic wife and a cute kid. Want Jesuitical fineness of argument? Look elsewhere. This one merely answers the prayers of those looking for an argument.

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