Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA, 2021. 4th Row Films, Artemis Rising Foundation, Concordia Studio, Impact Partners. Story consultant Chris Boeckmann. Cinematography by Robert Kolodny. Produced by Susan Bedusa, Bennett Elliott, Douglas Tirola. Music by Keegan DeWitt, Dabney Morris. Production Design by Brandon Bowman. Costume Design by Elizabeth Bohanon. Film Editing by Robert Greene.
There’s a great deal of pain emanating from the screen for two straight hours of this riveting documentary, but don’t take that to mean that watching it is a burden. Rather it’s an act of gorgeous generosity that the participants allow us to enter their world and share their attempt to work towards catharsis, dealing with their past trauma in a unique and, hopefully for them, beneficial way.
A televised press conference that caught director Robert Greene’s eye prompted him to approach six men who were speaking up about the abuse they had suffered at the hands of Catholic priests when they were children, and he asked them to collaborate on a documentary with him that resulted in this film. Bringing these men together, Greene hires a drama therapist to guide them through a project not too different from his Bisbee project, in which they write dramatic scenes that recreate and relive their worst moments before coming up creative, alternative ways to direct their outcomes.
Decades after having been subjected to the worst horrors of sexual assault (and some of the stories really will make your skin melt), all six men still have vivid recollections of the events they are describing, they are psychologically scarred, justifiably angry and heartbroken over the effect that their experiences have had on their relationships with others: Mike Foreman, a man whose anger has become a passion to seek “whatever small justice” he can get, has spent many years performing a daily ritual of playing loud music and dissociating mentally in order to get to the morning, and has never been in a serious romantic relationship because of how damaged he feels by what he went through. Dan Laurine‘s mother appears on camera, very movingly, and in anguish admits to feeling that she threw her children under the bus because of her unwavering support for the priesthood. In some cases the abusers have passed away, in others they have been, as is often the case with this particular situation, moved quietly by church authorities to other parishes, in all cases the church’s response to any complainants pursuing legal justice is to hide behind the law’s statute of limitations on the issue.
The stars of this very powerful film put themselves through quite the emotional torture for this project, the scouting of locations to film their scenes sometimes includes visiting the real places where their traumas occurred; just seeing houses and fields that they didn’t realize they remembered with such accuracy makes memories flood back and overwhelm them emotionally. Greene doesn’t apply quite the same bent flavour of eccentricity that the Bisbee project made room for, these stories aren’t as far back in the past and participants are still on hand and require more sensitive handling, but in place of any undercurrent of humour is a graceful appreciation for what they are sharing with the world. Some of the participants speak of having achieved new levels of peace with having faced these demonic memories, but Greene is wise enough not to pretend to know what the future holds for any of them, ending merely with the hope that at least this effort has done far more good than harm.