This intense documentary isn't meant for kids. Employing some potentially questionable and undeniably challenging-to-watch techniques, this film offers an intense portrayal of six middle-aged men grappling to overcome memories of childhood abuse at the hands of Catholic priests.
The filmmakers behind Procession put together a three-year collaborative project involving the abuse survivors and a professional drama therapist to lead them through reenactments of the scenes of their abuse.
The scenes involve a child actor (Terrick Trobough) who is cast to represent all of the men, symbolizing the common thread and repetition of the abuse. Trobough becomes a kind of secondary therapist, absorbing the men's anger, panic, and sadness as he acts out terribly difficult scenes. It's hard to watch, and though the child actor seems to take it all in stride and displays a lot of emotional maturity, you can't help but wonder about him processing this all in the longer term.
The steps of scouting locations, building sets, story-boarding memories, and reenacting each other's experiences are all part of the therapy.
A couple of scenes are particularly charged, including when a priest is seen inside a confessional guilting the boy into silence about his abuse and the man whose memory it is can barely catch his breath outside as he watches the takes. Another scene in a bedroom has a priest in his underwear asking the boy to describe what he does when he thinks of girls; afterwards, the survivor playing the priest whispers how "frighteningly easy" it is to "manipulate" a child, and the man whose memory this is tears apart the furniture and props of the constructed set with his bare hands.
The film certainly makes its case against an institution that failed to take action or protect the kids of its parishes. The men's lawyer says she has represented over 400 victims of priest abuse just in the Kansas City area. The trauma is still right there on the surface, and this film captures it in close detail; some overly-theatrical lighting and music wasn't necessary for this personal tale. It was certainly brave of the men to star in the film, and they repeat that their hope is their public revelations will prevent future abuses.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.