One day, a new priest joins the house and is immediately accosted by Sandokan (Farías), a man he’d abused as a child, leading to the priest committing suicide. This draws the attention of Father Garcia (Alonso), a younger priest intent on shutting the ‘retirement home’ down.
Where Spotlight excelled was in drawing attention to the horrors of the scandal by giving voice to its victims rather than the Church’s attempts to defend itself. It’s immediately evident from the concept of The Club that this film has a much tougher ask, and many viewers will be understandably put off by the very idea of a film focusing on characters who could commit such monstrous crimes. However, this is no clichéd and undeserved tale of repentance – indeed, some of the priests still commit quite a nasty act towards the end. Larraín and his co-writers approach this subject matter with no agenda other than to explore the psychological and moral complexities behind the situation; for example, Father Garcia’s interrogations of the priests go into how the church’s suppression of priests’ sexuality could lead to the abuse of the vulnerable.
The film, however, would not be half as interesting without the character of Sandoken, who sticks around in the town to torment the other priests. He’s a very complex figure, his views on sexuality and religion having been screwed up by his childhood traumas. It’s very upsetting, both for the viewer and for Garcia, to see how hateful and directionless he has become as a result of his abuse, and his presence in the town sparks a lot of conflict as the film nears its end.
But don’t expect a dramatically satisfying ending; perhaps fittingly for the very real issues it explores, The Club is a melancholy film which offers more questions than answers. Though at times frustrating, particularly when the focus is on characters who’ve committed the most horrible of crimes, Larraín approaches the issues with care and complexity, and for that reason this is a tough but recommended watch.
Extras: Pablo Larraín Interview / Trailer
THE CLUB / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: PABLO LARRAÍN / SCREENPLAY: GUILLERMO CALDERÓN, PABLO LARRAÍN, DANIEL VILLALOBOS / STARRING: ALFREDO CASTRO, ROBERTO FARÍAS, ANTONIA ZEGERS, MARCELO ALONSO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW