Club, The Review

The Club Poster
Title: The Club (El Club)
Director: Pablo Larraín
Starring: Alfredo Castro,
Antonia Zegers,
Marcelo Alonso,
Alejandro Sieveking,
Roberto Farías,
Jamie Vadell
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 1 Hour 37 mins
Music: Carlos Cabezas
Studio: Network
Certificate: 18
Release Date: UK: Mar 25 2016
See If You Like: Spotlight

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival, and nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2015 Golden Globes, Pablo Larraín’s The Club (El Club) is a powerful, disturbing, solemn, and at times difficult to watch drama focussing on the lives of five exiled priests.

A superbly shot, well acted, and strangely fascinating film, The Club‘s grim tale of exiled priests – all excommunicated from the Church and sent to live together in a metaphorical prison under the watchful eye of a questionable, and quietly sinister nun – is brought to life not only by the main cast’s superb acting (everyone involved fills their role with a quiet subtlety, whereby you can’t really trust anyone or anything, and don’t know who’s capable of what), but the hauntingly beautiful and thoroughly creepy strings of Carlos Cabezas’ score.

Watching as the delicate balance of the priests’ lives (which, rather than penance, involve raising a champion racing-greyhound, copious gambling, owning a gun, and other vices) are upset with the introduction of a new priest, and an internal investigation into their way of life; forcing them all to relive the past, and explain why they’ve been placed in the so-called ‘retirement home’ (with reasons ranging from pedophilia, to baby-snatching and more); it’s a deeply disturbing insight into a culture and now well-publicised phenomenon which, to an outsider at least, feels authentic.

What’s perhaps both the best, worst, and most realistic aspect of the film, is how none of the priests seem to feel remorse or shame for their actions (yet somehow disassociate themselves from the ‘delinquents’ they live with), and it’s the subtlety and visible internal struggles on each of the priests’ faces (and that of the live-in, mother-hen, matriarchal nun) which really sell The Club as an authentic portrayal.

It’s a difficult, political, and weighty concept (what does happen to these exiled priests? how do they rationalise their behaviour? why is it covered up? and how does it affect the lives of those around them?), and one which Larraín handles brilliantly by not succumbing to the typical ‘good-guy vs bad-guy’ plot lines, and instead taking a sideways look at a morally conflicted world where there is clear evil, but delivered in multiple shades of grey (perfect examples being the investigator not wanting to expose the Church to more bad press, and a young man who’s experiences with the priesthood burdened him with hugely conflicting views of both priests and the Church).

As the past begins to rear it’s head, the house is threatened with closure, and outside influences begin to affect the mindset of the priests’, tension builds, and events unfold, to a powerful (and disturbing) finale, before an unexpected conclusion leaves you wondering about the reality of the situation. The Club is a masterful stroke of filmmaking, an excellent piece of original work where Pablo Larraín not only lets you know how he feels about the state of affairs, but pulls fantastic performances from a talented (though unknown in this part of the world) cast, and delivers a solemn, sombre, yet subtly superb film which can be difficult to watch, yet impossible to turn away from.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

THE CLUB is available on DVD & Blu-ray 30th May.

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Matt Wheeldon is the Founder, and Editor in Chief of Good Film Guide. He still refers to the cinema as "the pictures", and has what some would describe as a misguided appreciation for Waterworld.