Director: Pablo Larrain
Stars: Alfredo Castro, Marcelo Alonso
4 (out of 5) Globes
The Catholic Church child abuse scandals are back into the national conversation, and for that we can thank “Spotlight.” But the awards favorite is not really about the scandals; it’s about journalism. The priests and the highers-ups are barely shown, and you get the sense that filmmaker Tom McCarthy would rather, you know, not go there.
“The Club” will go there. This Chilean drama, which is partly a somewhat absurdist almost-comedy, opens with a man of the cloth beginning his stint at a home for disgraced priests. Soon as he’s arrived he’s hounded by one of his very troubled former victims. Named Sandokan (Roberto Farias), he shouts graphic descriptions of the atrocities he endured as a child, loud enough for everyone in town to hear. It’s not clear what he wants, and he’s only temporarily satisfied when his former abuser shuffles outside holding a gun and shoots himself in the head.
Pain doesn’t go away, not even the pain that plagues those who’ve heaped pain upon others. The ensemble in “The Club” are all men — and one (wrongfully, she claims) fallen nun (Antonia Zegers) — who’ve committed (or are alleged to have committed) unspeakable crimes. Instead of punishing them and fixing a broken institution, the Church has spirited them away to a quaint, homey house in a remote coastal town. It’s less a prison than a neverending camp for aging men. They share rooms. They’re not allowed near the locals. Some have gotten really into greyhound racing.
Their tranquil life is upset by first the inciting incident, then an ominous Vatican official, Father Garcia (Marcelo Alonso), who arrives to either restore order or dissolve the home entirely, scattering its inhabitants to uncertain futures. Or as one of them puts it, “They’re going to screw us.” (Though that could just be the work of a mordant translator manning the subtitles.)