By the sea, somewhere in Chile, four catholic priests live in a house in a small coastal town. These are not nice men, excommunicated from the church for crimes ranging from child abuse to baby snatching. The church sends them to this house to repent for their sins and live out their lives.
As the priests live their quiet lives, raising and racing a grey hound to pass the time via the ex-sister Monica – who’s also the housekeeper, their lives are changed forever as a new priest is sent to stay with them. This priest, a paedophile, is a stark and unwelcome reminder of their former lives. Very soon however, something even worse happens as a second man arrives, Sandokan, who, as a young boy, was abused by the new priest.
This man stands outside the house of the priests and shouts all the things the new priest did to him when he was a child. The other priests push the new priest to grab a gun and threaten the man, warn him off. Instead, the new priest heads outside and their lives are changed forever.
Writer and director Pablo Larrain gives us something that, at times, is hard to watch. It’s brutal and doesn’t hold any punches as it ventures into the scandals that have engulfed the catholic church. Yet, he actually manages to make some of the priests likeable, not an easy feat at all. This is helped by the introduction of a man the church sends to see if it’s worth keeping the house open at all, he’s painted as the villain, bringing the house back to church ways.
The priests concoct a plan to end all their recent pains and return their lives to normal. This involves a lot of things that are frowned upon, particularly for catholic priests. But the backfire, the twist, is sublime and Larrain gives the priests exactly what they deserve, a lifetime of looking after someone they wanted out of their lives.
The movie is slow but it needs to be, it works well. The cinematography is beautiful and the acting sublime. This is a hard-to-watch film, of that there is no doubt, but if you can watch it, it’s absolutely recommended.