23 March 2016

THE CLUB. (2015) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.


THE CLUB. (EL CLUB) 2015. DIRECTED, CO-WRITTEN AND CO-PRODUCED BY PABLO LARRAIN. STARRING MARCELO ALONSO, ROBERTO FARIAS AND ANTONIA ZEGERS. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I didn't have a clue as to what kind of 'club' this superb film was going to introduce me to before I watched it. If I'd been guessing for a hundred years as to its precise nature, I still wouldn't have come up with the correct answer. It's a 'club' with a difference, that's for sure. It's not even a 'club' at all, really. Not like a knitting club or a salsa-dancing club or a writers' club. Intrigued? Read on...

In a yellow house beside a Chilean beach lives a small (just four of them) community of priests, all disgraced in some way or another. Paedophilia, homosexuality and illegal trading in babies are their crimes. Living in this 'safe' house, to which they've all been packed off, is a way for them to evade the justice system which otherwise would be waiting to embrace them. In all honesty, it's probably also a way for the Church to sweep some of their mistakes under the metaphorical rug.

They live quietly enough in the house. Sister Monica, herself a woman with with secrets to keep, is their warden. She smiles a lot and I wouldn't be surprised if she keeps a guitar somewhere in the house. She imposes the rules gently but firmly and keeps the priests busy from morning till night with Mass, confessions, singing, saying the rosary and regular-as-clockwork mealtimes and bedtimes. Obviously, routine is the key to the smooth and efficient running of the house.

It's not all singing and praying, either. The clerics own a racing-dog called Rayo who nets them a few quid and they're allowed to ramble around the town too, but only between certain times. They're not allowed to talk to the locals, who don't know who is being housed in the yellow house above the beach, and they're forbidden to have cellphones. They're also banned from- ahem- masturbation and self-flagellation. Sorry boys, but them's the rules...

The arrival of a new member to the little community leads to a shocking tragedy at the start of the film. This in turn brings someone else new to the house, a psychologist, ex-missionary priest and 'beautiful man' in the shape of Father Garcia, whose job it is to get to the truth of the tragedy and assess the priests. This is all with a view to closing down the house and throwing the inmates of the house on the aforementioned justice system.

The priests and Sister 'We live a beautiful holy life here' Monica are vehemently opposed to this idea. Father Garcia's got his work cut out for him. He thinks there's a little too much singing and jollification in the yellow house by the beach and not enough true repentance and genuine remorse for sins committed. 'This is not a spa or a retirement home,' he reminds them.

He thinks there should be a little less chicken-eating, booze-quaffing and greyhound-racing going on. He's not really a hard-ass, though. I think he just thinks that these priests have it a little too cushy in the yellow house by the beach. Maybe he thinks they shouldn't be allowed to continue to 'live it up' at the expense of Mother Church. Okay, so they're not living it up Vegas-style (like Father Ted was always dying to do!) but they're not exactly breaking rocks on a chain-gang either. I'd personally say that it looks like they've fallen on their feet a bit.

In the form of Sandokan, the disturbed and dysfunctional homeless man, we get a glimpse into what it's like to have been a victim of clerical sexual abuse. To have had your virginity taken by a priest. To have had your body violated by someone in authority wearing a collar. We won't dwell on that notion here. There are extremely explicit references to sexual abuse in the film which, if you have a strong stomach, you should just about be able to handle. Speaking of things which are hard to handle, there are distressing scenes of animal abuse in THE CLUB too. Yeah, I know. The fun never starts around here...!

The climax of the film is as shocking as the tragedy that began it. What I liked about this film was that it really made me think hard about a subject I'd never really thought about before. What does the Church do with its errant priests? This question had never before even crossed my mind. This is a difficult subject bravely and honestly handled by Pablo Larrain. It's not a clergy-bashing film, though, and neither is it sensationalist. It just tells a grim story really, really well.

The other thing I liked about THE CLUB was Marcelo Alonso as Father Garcia. He's a great actor and sooooo handsome, but in a Biblical kind of way. Those eyes and mouth...! Slap a long brown wig and sandals on him and you've no need to worry about who's going to play Jesus in the Nativity Play at Christmas-time...! Sorry if that sounds irreverent, but just wait till you see him. You'll get what I mean.

This excellent and thought-provoking film, with gorgeous cinematography and a haunting musical score (that cello!), will be released in cinemas across the UK and Ireland this coming Good Friday, the 25th of March 2016, courtesy of Network Releasing. (' Good Friday? Ooooh, that's a controversial one there, Ted...!') 

Everyone's going to be talking about the film  that won the Jury Grand Prix at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival. If you want to know what they're banging on about so excitedly at the water-cooler, then go and see it. It might just be the best film you see this year.  
THE CLUB directed by Pablo LarraĆ­n is in UK cinemas now #TheClubFilm
 AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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