- The Washington Times - Friday, February 19, 2016

“The Club,” from Chilean director Pablo Larrain, opening at the District’s Landmark E Street Cinema Friday, brings with it the pain, the angst of excommunication, humiliation and institutionalized silence.

Mr. Larrain, whose previous works include “No” and “Tony Manero,” goes full-on morbid in the new film, which centers on a Chilean home by the sea where live disgraced priests and a nun removed from official Catholic circles for sins against Church and community that require such sequestration. They are, largely, pedophiles and mentally ill — men joined by a single nun (Antonia Zegers) whose daily lives involve prayer, communal dining and the seeking of absolution through deed and penance, both from the Church and that self-imposed.

When sudden violence rocks their cloistered living, a priest is sent to investigate the wherefores of the incident. A lesser director would turn this into straight-up mystery material, but “The Club” is far more interested not in solving a crime but rather in thrusting its defrocked characters into a scenario that requires an outsider—one who is also of the cloth but who cannot possibly understand what they have done and are doing here.

The film can be a tad languorous at times, and it’s attempt at a false, violent climax involving one of the more unstable characters near the end strikes as perhaps too much melodrama for its own good, but Mr. Larrain excels at creating palpable atmospherics of festering bureaucratic recriminations for those who serve one of the world’s monolithic institutions. The cinematography, by Sergio Armstrong, is shrouded in vivid and pale blues that bring out the malificence in the sea nearby while bathing the actors in unflattering lighting that is meant to foster a sense of a purgatory for these broken humans seeking redemption.

“The Club” opens at the District’s Landmark E Street Cinema Friday.

Rated R: Contains language, violence and generally unpleasant situations. In Spanish with English subtitles.


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