Pablo Larrain’s The Club is intense. Fr. Garcia (Marcelo Alonso), a Jesuit counselor for the Vatican, is on assignment investigating an incident that occurs at a home for wayward clergy tucked away in the hills of La Boca, a fishing town on the coast of Chile. The home, where four scandalized priests live, has many rules– no cell phones, no showers longer than five minutes, no self-pleasuring– and is run by sweet but cunning Sr. Monica (Antonia Zegers). Animosity quickly develops between methodical Fr. Garcia and the others during the course of his investigation, complicated by unstable local day worker Sandokan (Roberto Farias) and his odd habit of showing up outside the home and loudly recounting in disturbingly graphic detail the sexual abuse inflicted upon him as a child by another priest, Fr. Lazcano (Jose Soza).
Moody, heavy, and intricate, The Club tackles not just the Vatican’s handling of scandal but survival in a culture of denial, mercy, forgiveness, and reconciling one’s faith within the confines of an imperfect human institution. The acting is flawless– Alonso and Alfredo Castro are particularly great– and the cast works as an ensemble. An excellent allegory of dogs as God, explained by Alonso himself after the screening, and Sandokan’s rants– a weird mix of medical terminology and porn– will haunt me for a long time.
(AMC River East) B+
Chicago International Film Festival