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The Club

(El Club)

Winner - 2015 Berlinale Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize

Pablo Larraín’s The Club is a superbly tough parable of Catholic faith, guilt, sin and redemption. This tart, smart and consistently surprising blend of ultra-serious material and darkly comic execution looks set to catapult Larraín, who also directed the Oscar-nominated No, into the front rank of international arthouse filmmakers.

Poster art for The ClubEntirely set in a remote, picturesque coastal fishing-village, The Club focuses on a humdrum-looking house where four grey-haired priests reside under the watchful eye of Sister Monica. The exact nature of this place ‘of refuge and prayer’ only gradually becomes apparent, following the arrival of a fifth resident, Father Lazcano. Barely has he set foot in the house than a spectre from Lazcano’s past, a local fisherman named Sandokan, shows up on the doorstep, loudly and graphically accusing Lazcano of past abuse. The priests’ reaction sets in chain a series of events which brings sharp-eyed Jesuit investigator Father García onto the scene – guaranteeing that nothing will ever be the same again.

Larraín oversees ensemble playing of the very highest order, with his regular totem Alfredo Castro first among equals as the preternaturally calm Father Vidal ­– who spends most of his time training the priests’ lucratively speedy greyhound (‘the only dog mentioned in the Bible!’).

But while there is humour aplenty in the film, the laughs are kept under suitably tight control, ensuring they’re always at the service of the film’s deeper psychological and even theological goals.

The Club is a bold and bracing allegory of a church tainted by scandals – most notably pedophile sexual abuse by priests and related cover-ups – and undergoing painful but overdue reform under the current pontiff.

Indeed, it’s no stretch to imagine the Pope requiring that this picture become compulsory viewing for all bishops across the planet. But theists and atheists alike will respond powerfully to Larraín’s grasp of character, dialogue and narrative development, in a story whose dramatic convolutions may skirt credibility but whose finale concludes matters in a persuasive, wickedly witty and provocative manner.

– Neil Young, Indiewire

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