The poster claims that this story is ‘A Journey Paved in Blood’ and in a way, it is.
It is 13th Century, the crusades rage in distant lands but the fight has arrived in the shores of Ireland where the story is set. A small group of Catholic monks live a peaceful life on the coast as they watch over a sacred relic. But when a Cistercian monk arrives bearing orders from Rome to remove the relic, things seem to go wrong. The Cistercian monk dismisses the stories the monks tell, ignoring their warning about moving the relic. Four monks and their mute mysterious labourer accompany the Cistercian on the doomed pilgrimage across the land encountering tribal armies, the French and the wrath of God. Will they make it to their destination?
Essentially a bloody road trip where shady deals are made and people’s guts are skewered out, the film is as violent as expected for a story set at this time. Films about the crusades are usually told from the battleground and warring cities but instead this ‘war’ story is told through monks and a relic they hold so dear that they are willing to die for it, seems unlikely that it would be a big hit but what director Brendan Muldowney lacks in the dialogue, he makes up for it with amazing views of Irish landscape.
With Tom Holland at the forefront as the young monk has doesn’t have any experience of the world outside his little community, the story is given a character to follow and ultimately root for. He impresses as Brother Diarmuid with his commitment to his faith, his loyalty to his brothers and his bravery against what is wrong. Along side him as friend and some time protector is the very strong and silent Jon Bernthal as The Mute. He literally only has a one word line and does most of his talking with his sword later on in the journey when he has to help fight off an army. Despite the silence, he provides a presence that is opposite to the monks in most ways, but what he is given to work with he does well.
Although there are a few eye rolling moments, the film still packs a strange and unusual punch. It won’t pass the Bechdel Test anytime soon (no female characters in sight) but it’s worth a watch for the cast and beyond amazing scenery alone. Ireland is certainly a beautiful place.
Dir: Brendan Muldowney
Prd: Conor Barry, John Keville, Benoit Roland
Scr: Jamie Hannigan
Cast: Tom Holland, Richard Armitage, Jon Bernthal, John Lynch
DoP: Tom Comerford
Music: Stephen McKeon
Running time: 92 minutes
Pilgrimage is available now