Defrocked priests face their sins in The Club

Film by Jorge Ignacio Castillo


The Club
RPL Film Theatre
March 31-April 3
4 out of 5

Unlike other Latin American filmmakers, Chile’s Pablo Larraín favours story over symbolism and lets passion seep through rather than anger take over. In his most popular film to date, No, he’s even critical of the opposition to Pinochet for being unwilling to adopt a pragmatic approach to getting rid of the murderous dictator.

The Club has a more limited scope, but again confronts a matter that had Chileans’ blood boiling: systematic abuse of children by priests that was concealed by the Catholic Church. While the issue has been tackled regularly and from many perspectives (most recently by Oscar winner Spotlight), Larraín finds a new angle, and it’s a hard one to take.

In a small beach town in the south of Chile, four defrocked priests spend their days praying and training a greyhound for dog races. In hiding from justice and protected by the church, it’s clear the men have violated their vows, but it’s not immediately obvious how.

The arrival of a fifth disgraced minister who’s trailed by a raving abuse victim triggers a series of events that threatens to expose the priests — or at least strip them of their shelter.

But while there’s little faith left in these men, they still have plenty of cunning.

Movies don’t get any bleaker than The Club. Nothing too graphic happens (don’t get attached to the greyhound, though) but the dialogue is often unbearable. The deranged man harassing the priests goes on awfully descriptive rants that aren’t fun to listen to.

Larraín comes up with a brilliant ending. Without revealing too much, the conclusion reminds us that comeuppance can adopt many forms. It’s a tough watch (with subtitles to boot), but worth the effort.