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The Club tackles weighty themes and difficult questions, but robs a potentially powerful story out of any sense of drama, intrigue, tension or emotional investment.
Directed by Pablo Larrain, The Club is a 2015 Chilean drama that centers around a group of former priests that live in a secluded house in a small town. The house is officially a retirement home for priests, but the truth is they were all sent there as a form of punishment for their past sins. When one of them commits suicide, a representative of the Church is sent to investigate the house and its inhabitants.
The movie immediately undermines its narrative pace by showing the suicide of the priest and the circumstances that surround it in great detail. By the time Father Garcia (Marcelo Alonso) arrives to investigate, we already what happened, how it happened and why. It’s a very odd decision, considering the investigation is technically the framing device for the entire story. When the audience already knows all the answers, there’s no mystery or tension to be found.
As a result, the movie feels like a series of conversations that ultimately amount to nothing. They engage in complex questions of faith, sexuality, identity and trauma, but without a narrative incentive to care, these potentially interesting discussions lack meaning or impact. An absolutely unnecessary sex scene, the staple of movies trying to prove they have something important to say when they actually don’t, is also present.
The characters are unlikable, so there’s no one to root for or be invested in. They do not learn from their mistakes or attempt to change their ways. The resolution to the narrative is nonsensical and unsatisfying.
Even at a brisk 96 minutes, The Club feels too long and drawn out. The camera holds on uncomfortable close-ups and the repetitive music is lethargic at best. It feels as if the movie is trying to be unsettling, and failing at it. It’s an unpleasant and ultimately pointless movie that cannot sustain the dramatic weight of its own subject matter.
The acting is fine, but the movie does not ask much of its cast. It’s mostly subtle, low-key performances that can sometimes come across as wooden or uncaring.
The most disappointing aspect about The Club is that could have been a very powerful story indeed. Had the narrative been restructured in a way that would allow the audience to slowly piece together what’s going on in this house of disgraced priests, the movie could have worked as an excellent and truly unsettling mystery or thriller, one that brings up thought-provoking questions.
As it stands, it’s almost unbearable to watch. There’s no enjoyment to be had or lessons to be learned. The Club is not suspenseful, it’s not scary, it’s not funny, it’s not disturbing and it’s certainly not interesting. It’s just boring.
The Club is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on the 30th of May, 2016 in the UK. It was the winner of the Jury Grand Prix at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival, was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2015 Golden Globes and was selected as its country’s entry for the same category for the Academy Awards.