Currently repped in theaters with JACKIE/’16 and NERUDA/’16, Pablo Larrain was first noticed (at least internationally) for his delicate balancing act directing the witty anti-Pinochet film NO/’12. But between those three projects, Larrain directed and wrote this award-winning disappointment . . . let’s blame the writing. Shot with continuous hazy diffusion, to reflect the characters’ equally hazy moral sense (oh, symbolism), the script is Larrain’s fantasia on the distressingly real ethical runaround used by the Catholic Church to hide priestly misconduct (pedophilia, baby swaps, golf outings) from secular authority, the press & the public, keeping all the dirty linen in an apostolic hamper. Here, at a little beach community house in Chile, a handful of the semi-defrocked, along with a fallen nun as caretaker, let the days unravel, feel sorry for themselves, grouse, go thru motions of devotion and enthusiastically train a greyhound for local races. But it’s all coming to a stop, or at least to a head, as a mentally-disturbed victim taunts them from the street, and an official Vatican rep threatens to shut the place down. Larrain doles this out in teaspoons, desperate to shock us with revelations we’ve already guessed at (like a lack of contrition), before finding a violent deus ex machina to close the book on this ethical conundrum. But is it an ethical conundrum? The crimes aren’t against the church, but against the community. In the pew or out, below the age of consent, on church grounds or off, buggery is buggery, no?
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: For a look at the troubled modern priesthood, and some rare evenhandedness with the subject, try Nanni Moretti’s THE MASS IS OVER/’85 which may also be his best film.