2017, TV

The Keepers (2017, Ryan White)

The Keepers is a fascinating, moving, infuriating and ultimately frustrating true crime documentary mini series both about who killed a nun in 1969 but, also, on a larger level, the moral corruption of the Catholic Church and the government authorities who have protected the Church or at least ignored complaints against it.

HUGE SPOILERS but let me just tell you that if you are thinking about watching this, it’s way too long for its material.

There is probably an excellent documentary in here somewhere. Not probably, there surely is. The problem is that the series is 432 minutes long and should probably be 240 minutes or so. We have hours of material that probably doesn’t need to be in this show. And that’s too bad because, at times, the series is incredibly powerful and affecting. But the longer the series goes, the more red herrings are pursued past the point of reason, and the more the most powerful episodes fade into the rear-view mirror, the more frustrating the show becomes.

The show has a deliberate pace and that pace is at the service of the mystery, early on. I like how it takes its time both in how it lays out the possible suspects but also because it emphasizes stylistically how the time has passed, and how this has turned from a pressing concern to a deep obsession. But the pace eventually works against the show, as more and more threads appear and some are dropped until the final episode, leaving us barely able to remember some possibly crucial evidence about related crimes.

The show is at its best exposing both the moral corruption of the Catholic Church – how it protected one particular child abuser in Baltimore for decades – and how the Baltimore authorities (or elements thereof) have colluded with the Church to protect it: files have disappeared which should not have disappeared, just like in cases of wrongful criminal conviction. The episodes that focus on the child abuse are incredibly powerful, affecting and heart-wrenching.

But the show is just too damn long. And, in its attempts to portray the obsessions of those haunted by the murder and abuse at the heart of the case it also goes down paths of investigation that don’t make a whole lot of sense. At one point, the film seemed to be claiming that 4 or 5 people killed the nun. Obviously that’s not what happened. But the show lets it sit there for half an episode or so because they seem to need to stretch it out to 7 hours.

Anyway, it’s way too long and it introduces too much information that is either irrelevant to the overall mystery or, in the case of the last episode, is introduced super late to get the proper treatment.

Oh well.

6/10

By the way, how can anyone – anyone – remain a member of the Catholic Church? They are the Church of Child Abuse.

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