With horrific histories of historical child abuse still being unearthed within the Catholic Church and Spotlight being one of the films of the year, re-staging Absolution is a timely choice. It was first produced in 2008 with great success at the Edinburgh festival.
In an ascetic cell a man is eager to confess to murder. No, not to murder; to revenge, to justice, to retribution. He does not repent, he is not the one seeking absolution; he is the one delivering it. His is a brutal story, in equal measure violent, horrific and bloody. In present day Donegal, Catholic priests are disappearing; he is the one behind it all. His motive? All of them have been child molesters. All of them have never been punished.
His story is told meticulously. We are sparred no horrific detail of the abuse or of the murders. We are aghast at the rationalisations the priests use for their actions. Children groomed, abused, left scarred for life. Families and local communities, unable and/or unwilling to protect them. The Church a puppet master. In the midst of it all a man, who decides that he cannot and he will not feign ignorance. His choice of action a life committed to weeding out – brutally – child-molesting priests.
The story is definitely engaging and definitely narrated without any sugar-coating. Each molester priest a distinct cameo of child abuse and yet as an audience we manage to remain up to some point disengaged, not as shocked and not as absorbed as we you’d imagine we would be given the brutality. Not as emotionally drained in the end. Partly I think it was because of the acting, Owen O’Neill despite the apparent passion and hard work was intense but not magnetic, we were not drawn in the story. The other reason for our distance, I believe, was that the story it might still be shocking but we have become inured. We thoroughly deserve the scathing critique at the end for our superficial interest and lack of action.