Absolution (1978)

absolution poster 1978 movie richard burton
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 7/10

Good cast

Story tries too hard and almost achieves what it is going for

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Absolution

Studio:  Bulldog Productions

Genre(s):  Suspense/Mystery/Drama

Release Date(s):  December 1978 (Premiere)/July 1, 1988 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

absolution richard burton dominic guard

Why does it feel like somebody’s watching me?

Father Goddard (Richard Burton) has strong faith and serves as a teacher at a boys school.  Goddard finds his favored student Benjamin Stanfield (Dominic Guard) is rebelling against him as a young hippie biker named Blakely (Billy Connolly) begins hanging around the school.  When Goddard receives shocking news in the confessional booth, he finds himself trapped between his faith and needing to expose a crime.  Goddard is in a trap, and he must decide where his loyalties lie.

Directed by Anthony Page, Absolution is a mystery thriller.  The film adapts an unperformed Anthony Shaffer stage play called Play with a Gypsy and was released in 1978 in the United Kingdom but was not released in the United States until 1988.  It received mixed reviews.

Absolution showed up in a multipack.  With many of those films, there isn’t a celebrity or if there, the film is very old.  Absolution was rather modern and featured an actor who is rather renown…in a so-so role.  Due to aspects of the story, a *****spoiler alert***** is in effect.

absolution billy connolly sharon duce

Hippies = Conflict (in the 1978-verse)

The movie is a bit of a mystery, but it also feels a little underdeveloped.  The concept is sound (what a priest hears in confession cannot be revealed), but it also doesn’t feel like the movie develops as entirely planned.  There was a debate on how to reveal the true killer, and the “twist” ending wasn’t necessarily the original path.  As someone who doesn’t have a ton of faith, I never understand these “I have to choose between myself and a murderer” type stories…Father Goddard could have just revealed what happened in confession and dropped from the ministry (he was already going to have to go to jail for murder).  Yes, he gave his word, but he also has already sinned and is protecting a sinner.

Burton was in a lot of similar roles for the time.  He was a psychiatrist in Equus dealing with psychologically disturbed patients and another priest in Exorcist II:  The Heretic, and Absolution fits nicely into this film period.  Burton’s Goddard also seems to have the cliché hidden desires and fears of those desires in some smaller scenes where he seems to fight expressing them.  Both Dominic Guard and Dai Bradley play good “bad” kids who like in a movie similar to The Innocents might or might not be driving Goddard crazy.  The movie also features the first film of Billy Connolly who plays the role of the biker Blakely.

absolution richard burton dai bradley

Forgive me, father…for I have sinned (and you’re going to pay)

The movie is rather limited in sets and locations, but it is a type of film that doesn’t need much elaborate to tell the story.  The school setting is nice, but I wish that they had done more to blend the school and church in the story since it is kind of like the crashing of worlds.

Absolution is a rather quick mystery, but it is a film that doesn’t equate the talent involved.  The movie is almost there, but unlike something like Doubt, the decision to not fully explore the relationship between belief and faith and the boundaries that it can create to making the morally right decisions seems wasted.  Absolution could have been a great film, but instead it ends up average.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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