Procession ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali
A group of survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests battle for justice. Available to watch on Netflix.
Tired of watching mediocre movies and since I’ve seen pretty much everything out there, I decided to check on Rotten Tomatoes some of the latest highest-rated films I might have missed..
This documentary released just at the end of 2021 popped up out of the blue. Its shiny 98% score and the fact that it was easily available on Netflix made it the perfect candidate.
Little did I know the emotional journey I was going to submit myself to.
It’s a film that blurs the lines between documentary and therapy. It chronicles how six middle-aged survivors from sexual abuse by Catholic priests from Kansas try to reclaim their lives by taking part in an unusual experiment.
In their battle for justice and their search for healing from the trauma they all experienced, accompanied by a crew of film makers and therapists, they embark on a series of workshops to eventually create and film fictional scenes from their abusive stories.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t go as far as one might fear and if the whole experiment sounds exploitative or intrusive, rest assured the perceptive and elegant direction by Robert Greene is almost invisible, allowing the “players” to work through their own often devastating memories.
They say images speak louder than words and Procession puts that to the test as the six men from Kansas start writing their “scripts”, hunt for locations, build film-sets, look for props and costumes, cast each other into the various roles and even have auditions for the role of a child victim and re-enter that painful space in order to face their ghosts, whether in a church, a bedroom, an isolated cabins by a lake or even during a meeting with an independent review board, which dismissed one of the cases.
In their re-telling they will go through cathartic experiences by either accepting the past, distancing themselves and even changing the outcome.
It’s interesting to notice that none of the stories have been judged by a court of law, nor any of the priests involved convicted (one is a fugitive and the others have died). We are meant to take these stories as truth and to be honest I have no reason to believe otherwise.
This is not so much a film about investigating crimes, nor a journalistic exposé on sexual abuse, nor does it want to be shocking for just for shock value. This is all about understanding the damage, the pain, its rippling effect and it’s about healing and recovery.
Amazingly this strange enterprise seems to work, at least for the six men involved in the documentary.
As you can imagine, it is not an easy watch, but, considering the subject matter it’s surprising how the director was able to find some occasional humour to filter through.
Of course, I did my share of crying, but at times I did feel that some of the conversations taking place were slightly forced to prove a point.
Also as a film I found it somewhat patchy and uneven, both in its execution and its construction.
But its message is so powerful and honest that I almost feel bad at criticising any aspect of this undoubtedly important and original work.
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick
Procession is available to watch on Netflix.
See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali
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