Movie Review - The Club (El club)

Pablo Larraín is considered one of the greatest filmmakers ever to come out of Chile, perhaps one of the greatest to come out of South America. This is only after directing four previous features. Two of which rose to international prominence. His second feature was Tony Manero. It became Chile's submission to the 81st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. It didn't get nominated, but his fourth feature No (2012) was nominated in that category at the 85th Academy Awards. It didn't win, but it certainly put Larraín on the map. This current film premiered at the 2015 Berlinale where it won the Silver Bear. It was Chile's entry to the 88th Academy Awards. It wasn't nominated. Nor did it make the shortlist, but it did get recognized at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

The story focuses on a group of former priests living in a yellow house in a small community in Chile. One day, a new priest joins them named Matias Lorenzo. Immediately after his arrival, another man named Sandokan arrives claiming, in fact shouting, that Matias is a pedophile and that in fact Matias molested and raped Sandokan when he was younger. Later, a younger priest named Father Garcia arrives to investigate. Garcia reveals that all the priests in that yellow house are either pedophiles or child abusers in some way. Garcia has to assess the situation and figure out what to do with them.

There is an indication that this film is set in the present-day, meaning that it takes place in a world after the world established in the recent, Oscar-winner Spotlight (2015). That Tom McCarthy film focused on the true-life, newspaper reporters who exposed the Church abuse scandal that revealed how the church was covering up the significantly, numerous cases of priests molesting or raping children. If this Larraín film is indeed set following Spotlight, then a lot of what happens here makes no sense.

First off, there's a really great moment in Spotlight where Oscar-nominee Rachel McAdams' character interviews a pedophile priest and gets a horrifying glimpse into that priest's thinking and rationale or justification for what he did. This movie seemingly is a platform that provides more of those glimpses into pedophile priests and into their heads. Yet, that's all it is. It's just more glimpses. Larraín had an opportunity to dive deeper into their way of thinking or rationales, but Larraín squabbles that opportunity.

Larraín also incorporates a weird sub-plot involving greyhound dogs that don't add much to the narrative. He also doesn't really make clear what the point of all this is, and exploring what the possible point is requires a spoiler alert. So, spoilers ahead!

Sandokan basically camps out in front of the yellow house and screams the dirty details of Matias molesting and raping him. It gets to the point where Matias commits suicide in front of the yellow house and in front of Sandokan. Matias literally shoots himself in the head. The remaining priests in the yellow house then lie to the police in order to hide the truth of what happened.

Yet, it seems ridiculous that no one in the media or no one in the press would not look into this. A priest commits suicide in front of his house by putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. It's incredulous that the local newspaper would not have run something on that. It's incredulous a local TV station wouldn't cover it. It's incredulous that the neighbors wouldn't question or wonder about it, or that nobody else witnessed or heard Sandokan's screams.

It's not incredulous or necessarily odd, but it is a wonder as to why Sandokan wouldn't go to the police and scream the truth to them. It's a wonder why Sandokan wouldn't tell the people in town about the priests. Larraín maintains a bubble that feels very artificial for these characters.

It's not even clear why the priests themselves stay in that yellow house. One of them calls it a prison, but it's not. They perhaps supplement their income through betting on dog races, but it seems as if they could leave at any time. No one is forcing them to stay together in that house. Whether they can be priests again is unlikely, but Larraín never addresses why they stay in that little yellow place.

Two Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains graphic, sexual language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 37 mins.


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