The Club (2016): Viewed and Reviewed

The Club (2016)

dir. Pablo Larrain

written by:  Pablo Larrain, Guillermo Calderón, Daniel Villalobos    

starring: Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers, Marcelo Alonso, Jaime Vadell, Roberto Farías

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3.5 out of 4 stars

It’s hard to keep up with foreign films in the US.  Even in Seattle, foreign Oscar nominees are here on special occasion, one-week runs at the worst possible time.  Fortunately, the libraries here are fantastic and can get these movies to me eventually.  Chilean Oscar submission from last year The Club is one of these cases.  The story of priests dismissed to a seatown house to serve penance for their sins.  When a new arrival attracts unwanted attention to their seclusion, the house is inspected for its effectiveness.

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Chilean director Pablo Larrain follows-up his Gael Garcia Bernal starring political comedy No with this dark piece.  Paired with Guillermo Calderón and Daniel Villalobos for screenwriting, the trio have developed a harsh examination of the repercussions of abused power.  When covered by an otherworldly power, what punishment dealt will suffice beyond reflection and penance?  Larrain delves into the unknown depths of hiding, and explores the punishments aided by a harsh dealer in Marcelo Alonso who arrived to determine the house’s fate.  Interviewing each of the subjects, dark secrets in their past are opened to examination as men of God and not.  

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Such open conversation regarding their indiscretions creeps under your skin, but none more than Mother Monica (Antonia Zegers), the self-proclaimed “jail keeper” of the house.  Arrived of her own desire to serve for her own missteps, Zegers provides the nun with a frantic, uneasy air as she compensates for the issues she finds to be her own failures.  “No one else will die here,” blurts Monica, revealing her panic in losing her safe place.  She leads these troubled men through their daily quest to reclaim their holiness, despite their abhorrent acts.  The cast is strong throughout, but no one packs as much wallop as Zegers.

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Victim storyline breaches uncomfortable territory, but what should be comfortable about this plot.  Having been abused by a man recently dead due to his taunts, Sandokan (Roberto Farías)

breaches his intimately bizarre progression with inebriated ramblings that hardly make sense.  His rightful anger and pain breeds hate and danger.  “I’d make a terrible soup, a terrible broth,” he growls with unsettling language, making his role lean toward horror.  His aggression adds more thrill than most gun-blazing action films could dream.

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Much like last year’s Best Picture winner Spotlight, this film explores the dark sides behind holy men.  Unlike the aforementioned American film, this one allow the perpetrators to expose their own weaknesses and delusions.  Lit in amber hues and cut so sharply, every shadow aids to this precisely shot terror.  Each member of the home suffers from afflictions, either moral or criminal, and the humanity dripping out of the inhabitants adds to the terror in the reality.  Lorrain is on the brink of his US breakout with his Pablo Neruda biopic Neruda and his Jackie O biopic Jackie.  With his previous strong work, it is likely he’ll be the next breakout foreign director.

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