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New Release Review - THE CLUB

A quartet of disgraced clergy come under investigation following the suicide of a paedophile priest.



Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Pablo Larrain

Starring: Alfredo Castro, Roberto Farías, Antonia Zegers, Marcelo Alonso



Larrain keeps us at a distance, rarely judging his characters; let's face it, enough judgement will come from the viewer.Do we need yet another movie demonising the Catholic Church? Well until the church is willing to exorcise its own demons, the answer is sadly a resounding yes.




With Spotlight scooping the Best Picture Oscar, it's not the best time to find yourself working in The Vatican PR department. The otherwise jaunty Irish drama Sing Street also finds room to take a swipe at the priesthood in an abuse subplot, and now Chilean auteur Pablo Larrain launches a pretty scathing attack on institutional Catholicism. If you've seen Spotlight, you'll recall the journalists' uncovering of a 'safe house' for priests whom the Church need to keep hidden away out of sight for their actions; with The Club, Larrain takes us inside such an establishment.


His four disgraced priests have been banished to a rather idyllic village on Chile's coast, where they spend their time drinking and accumulating winnings on the local greyhound scene. Overseeing the men is a nun/housekeeper, who seems so besotted by their cloth she's willing to overlook such irreligious activities (her devotion speaks volumes about how the Church continues to thrive). All in all, it's a pretty good arrangement for a quartet of men who would be serving time in a Chilean jail were they under the employ of any secular institution.

Their tranquility is disrupted by the addition of a fifth priest, who blows his brains out when loudly confronted by one of his former abuse victims. The local police don't seem too bothered by it all, but the Church sends an investigator in the form of Father Garcia to get to the bottom of things.

Large segments of the film involve Garcia questioning the four men and their housekeeper, who detail their transgressions without remorse. One proudly boasts of his rape of young men, mocking Garcia's virginity in the process. Another shows no signs of guilt for his role in torturing prisoners as a military chaplain. The eldest is too senile to remember why the Church exiled him back in the '60s, while a fourth freely admits to his hand in the illegal sale of infants. The 'nun' claims to have beaten her 'black black' adopted African daughter because of the social stigma she caused her.


Whether you're religious or not, the arrogance of these confessions will likely set your blood boiling, but what's most disturbing is Garcia's reaction; barely fazed by the priests' past actions, he's more angered that they now spend their time drinking and gambling rather than serving the Church's laughable idea of penance. Abusing kids is fine once you say a couple Hail Marys afterwards, but racing greyhounds and having a few cans is unthinkable.

The men can handle the 'harsh' new regime of Garcia; more troubling for them is the continued presence of Sandokan, the abuse victim whose initial appearance brought all this trouble on them. As he hangs around town, getting drunk and revealing his past, the priests and their nun decide they must take action to silence him.

The Club plays out like a dark, contemporary take on a spaghetti western - a stranger with a past arriving to expose the secrets of a small town is a familiar trope, and this combined with the coastal setting recalls Clint Eastwood's spiritual western High Plains Drifter. There are allusions to Hitchcock's The Birds too; not just the seaside locale, but also how Larrain shoots the interiors of his priests's safe house, low angles making the ceiling a crushing presence, just as Hitch placed his camera for his film's siege scenes.


But while Larrain is in total command of his camera, The Club is never showy. Larrain keeps us at a distance, rarely judging his characters; let's face it, enough judgement will come from the viewer. His great trick is in bringing us close to empathy for his protagonists by the final act, only to sharply remind us of their true nature in a skillfully executed finale.

Do we need yet another movie demonising the Catholic Church? Well until the church is willing to exorcise its own demons, the answer is sadly a resounding yes.

THE CLUB is available on DVD & Blu-ray 30th May


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