Recently, I’ve realized that 75% of my pop culture diet is murder mysteries. Like a couch potato detective, I diligently watch and decipher any mysteries that appear in my queue. The most recent installment in my great detective series is Netflix’s The Keepers. The documentary attempts to solve the puzzle of who killed Sister Cathy Cesnik. The nun was murdered under suspicious circumstances and two of her students have devoted their time in their later years to help solve the case. The self-proclaimed “Grandma Nancy Drews” have pieced together that Sister Cathy’s death was a cover-up to hide Father Joseph Maskell’s sexual abuse in the high school. Like most murder mysteries there are odd little details that stick with you. Here are the moments from The Keepers that will haunt you long after the credits roll.
Gemma & Abbie
I love Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub equally but for different reasons. Hoskins is known as the “bulldog.” She enjoys meeting people and questioning them. Hoskins also has a signature look. Her fiery/disheveled red hair gives her a sense of quiet eccentricity. Her two mismatched handmade earrings complete her Bohemian look. They are completely distracting. You cannot be a good couch potato detective if you didn’t notice the mismatched earrings.
Gemma can’t be reduced to just her eccentric clothing. She is much more than that. Hoskins has a gift for connecting with people and asking the important questions. Abbie on the other hand, would prefer to keep record of these conversations, rather than conduct them. People like Abbie have a gift that very few people possess–the gift of practical organization. For two people who are slowly picking at the red tape that surrounds this case, one is required to be organized. Schaub’s meticulous notes and spreadsheets about when letters were sent and the summaries of their response keeps the two “Grandma Nancy Drews” on their right track.
Jean Wehner, also known as Jane Doe in the legal trial, is one of the victims of Father Joseph Maskell’s abuse. Her story is difficult to hear but is also one of the most compelling found in the documentary. What’s most memorable is her relationship with her husband. The footage of Jean and Mike as they enter a surprise party thrown for them is fascinating to watch. Their relationship seems solid and genuine. Throughout the entire series I was suspicious when there weren’t any interviews with Mike. I was afraid that he and Jean had a falling out. There are many parts of the series that I will remember that are upsetting grim, but Mike and Jean’s relationship is one piece of hope that I can hold on to.
The audience is continually reminded of the lack of evidence throughout the show. Somewhere there are boxes and boxes of evidence that Father Maskell buried in the back of a graveyard, but for the documentary, they only have a few small clues at their disposal. The filmmakers are also in a similar predicament. It seemed like they only had a few graphics to use to show what life was like at Keough High School. They need to credit the Keough High School Yearbook staff for providing them with most of their images used in the documentary. I find it hard to believe that there were only three pictures of Sister Cathy Cesnik floating around that they could use.
The Nun in the Attic
All of the previous moments were memorable, but nothing is seared into my brain more than the Nun in the Attic. Billy Schmidt, one of the suspects in Sister Cathy Cesnik’s murder, was haunted by the nun’s death. According to a family member, he kept a mannequin dressed like a nun in the attic. Out of all the evidence shared in The Keepers, this revelation is the most bizarre. The information is troubling because it shows how many people had small pieces of information about the case, but didn’t share their part of the story. For each witness, there are reasons why they wouldn’t want to come forward with their information. Some people were intimidated by the church. Some people were trying to protect family members. Some people felt like their portion was insignificant at the time. The image of the faceless nun is a reminder that all of the pieces of the puzzle have not come together yet.
Two, I think the film crew just used the same attic that Tom Nugent, the journalist that rustles around in his attic like a varmint, stores all of his files from previous stories. If true, I’m thankful that his disaster of a storage area finally got organized.
The Keepers focuses on memories. There is discussion about dissociated memories, disturbing memories of family members and preserving the memory of loved ones lost. Audiences learn that there are keepers of secrets but more importantly, there are keepers of memories.