The Club (2016; Pablo Larraín)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opens tomorrow at the Opera Plaza in San Francisco, the Shattuck in Berkeley and the Rafael in San Rafael.
The Club is the followup film to director/co-writer Pablo Larraín’s Oscar-nominated No, and it’s another intimate and methodical take on a dark era in Chilean history. In this case, the film concerns the systematic cover-up of child sexual abuse by the Catholic church (Larraín’s next film covers Pablo Neruda’s time spent as a fugitive in his own country).
In an unassuming yellow house in a miserable beach town perpetually engulfed in a milky grey haze, the church has stashed four guilty priests and one ex-nun caretaker. Together, they live out a quietly decadent routine, training a prize greyhound and dining on chicken and wine.
The first two-thirds of The Club plays like a police procedural, as the suicide of a newly arrived priest brings the attention of a young, laser-eyed church investigator. It also attracts a distraught adult victim (Roberto Farías, giving the film’s standout performance) who sets up camp outside the house.
Larraín brings the story to a downright ugly crescendo in the final act, tolling bells and animal murders and Calvary symbolism and everything. Finally, The Club ends with an annoying final flourish that wraps the movie into a neat metaphorical package.
That left a bad taste, but I’ll still take this visceral and disturbing look at the Catholic molestation cover-up over the middle-distance politeness of Spotlight any day.