By the Grace of God review – thoughtful abuse drama

ARTNEWSPRESS: François Ozon eschews his normal flashy style for a direct, unvarnished account of three men preyed upon by a Ca

François Ozon’s timely, tasteful drama, based on real events in Lyon, France, wastes no time launching into the painful details of one man’s boyhood memory of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest. Then another’s. And another’s. Father Preynat (played by Bernard Verley with smiling ambivalence) is the perpetrator; survivors include 40-year-old banker and family man Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud), fiery atheist François (Denis Ménochet) and the emotionally unstable Emmanuel (a bravura performance from Swann Arlaud), brought together when Alexandre raises the issue with Cardinal Barbarin (François Marthouret), 30 years after the fact.

The film takes the silence and complicity of those who felt it better not to “scratch the wound” to task. On the matter of why (and indeed, when) some people choose to speak out, and others don’t, it is thoughtful. Tonally, it’s a far cry from the paranoid sleaze of Ozon’s usual film-making mode. There’s perhaps an over-reliance on voiceover by way of letters and emails, though the film’s unvarnished formal directness is a good thing, given the sensitive material.

Watch a trailer for By the Grace of God.tholic priest in Lyon

Simran Han


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