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Louis Theroux: A Place for Paedophiles
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10 from 809 votes
Release: 19 April 2009 (UK) /

Louis Theroux: A Place for Paedophiles

Genre: Documentary
Director: Emma Cooper,
Synopsis: Louis visits Coalinga Mental Hospital in California, home to over 500 convicted paedophiles, and spends some time with those undergoing treatment.

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Critic Reviews

This film is in many ways typical for Louis Theroux. In it he goes into a community or a group of people who are outside of normal life in some way and he interviews them in a manner of being naive and innocent about them; these groups have been racists, religious fanatics, maximum security prisoners, drug addicts and so on. Here though I did feel like he was being brave with his choice of subject. OK not brave in terms of personal safety (as he often is) but more in terms of tackling a subject that is incredibly emotive and one in which even those who view themselves as liberal struggle not to want them harshly punished for their crimes. Paedophiles are generally portrayed in the media as unforgivable monsters who never deserve a second chance – and this is perhaps understandable because generally what they have done is unfathomable and near impossible to emotionally get past.

It could in theory have been a witch hunt of revulsion, but it could also have been a film where the paedophiles get treated with a soft touch and gets accused of being too easy on them considering what they have done. What the film actually manages to do is to walk a perfect line of being horrified by what these people did but also being able to look at them as people – not monsters that we should all burn out of their homes in a frenzy of mob hysteria. Louis himself is key to this working because he himself appears to be struggling with disconnecting the what from the who. This again is understandable and there are subjects here who, as he concludes, will simply never get out of this treatment facility alive. Although he doesn't really get "answers" to the challenges, he does do a great job of showing all sides of the problems – the suspicions, the inability to find a "cure", the inability of society to accept paedophiles realised from jail into their community with the comparative ease of accepting (say) a robber who did his time etc. All of these are well covered by the choice of subject interviewed and it did feel aspects of the problem were raised by the different people Louis interviewed.

The strongest point for me was masterfully made at the end. Mr Lamb is up for release having voluntarily been chemically then physically castrated and spending 11 years in treatment; Louis has not really spoken about what he did all those years ago and raises this with Lamb. When he is asked why it matters, Louis can't really say much more than "owning up" or "coming clean" – something I agreed with myself, because it doesn't feel "right" that it goes unspoken. However as Lamb says, when can he move on too, when can he be allowed to start fresh having done so much to get to that point. It is a great moment because it perfectly captures the conflict that is about to happen with the community and Lamb – Louis is saying what many of us feel and, while we agree with his feelings, the film also forces us to listen to what this other person in the room is saying, because they sound right too. It is a great moment at the end of the film.

This is a very difficult film to watch and indeed there are people in here that are hard to look at because of the crimes described that they did. However it is worth watching because it asks many, many more questions than it even tries to answer and it manages to be honest about the paedophiles while also refusing to paint them as monsters – it keeps them as deeply damaged people, many of whom will die in a treatment facility that might as well be a prison. As uncomfortable and difficult as the subject deserves, but it is still an excellent look at the subject by Theroux.

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