Cal (1984 film)

Cal is a 1984 Irish drama film directed by Pat O'Connor and starring John Lynch and Helen Mirren. Based on the novella Cal written by Bernard MacLaverty who also wrote the script, the film was entered into the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, where Mirren won the award for Best Actress.[1]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byPat O'Connor
Produced by
Screenplay byBernard MacLaverty
Based onCal
by Bernard MacLaverty
Music byMark Knopfler
CinematographyJerzy Zielinski
Edited byMichael Bradsell
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • 24 August 1984 (1984-08-24) (USA)
  • 5 October 1984 (1984-10-05) (Ireland)
Running time
102 minutes


Cal (John Lynch) is a young Catholic member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1970s Northern Ireland. He is used as a driver on a nighttime murder of a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The murder takes place at the victim's home in view of his family. The victim's dying words are a call for his wife, Marcella.

One year later, Cal learns that the victim's widow is a librarian, Marcella (Helen Mirren), a Catholic woman. Burdened with guilt over his role in the murder, Cal tries to leave the IRA, but is pressured to remain a member. He and his father live in the city, where they are threatened with loyalist gangs and Orange Order marches on their street. Wishing to atone in some way for assisting in the murder of Marcella's husband, Cal seeks work in her family's Protestant home. Initially he works as a hand on their farm, and later moves into a small cottage on their land. Marcella is not happy in her home, feeling trapped by her deceased husband's family. Over time, Cal and Marcella begin a love affair—with Marcella unaware of Cal's role in her husband's death.

Eventually, Cal is found by his IRA unit and is threatened with murder if he does not continue working as a driver. While he is Christmas shopping for Marcella and her child, he is abducted by the IRA. The car is stopped by a British Army checkpoint. In the ensuing gunfire, Cal escapes and makes his way to Marcella's home, where he confesses his role in the murder. Cal is pursued to the house by the RUC, and in the film's final scene both Cal and Marcella are seen in their respective "prisons"—Cal on his way to prison in a police van, and Marcella on her way back to her in-laws' home.



As of 16 March 2011, the aggregate review website Rotten Tomatoes has recorded 91% positive response based on 11 reviews.[2]

Goldcrest Films invested £396,000 in the film and received £278,000 in return. They lost £118,000.[3]

See also


  1. "Cal". Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  2. Cal, Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed 22 March 2010.
  3. Eberts, Jake; Illott, Terry (1990). My indecision is final. Faber and Faber. p. 656.
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