François Ozon (Frantz, Potiche, L’amant Double) takes on the subject of child abuse in the Catholic Church in this devastating and heartfelt drama which is based on true events.
Starring Melvil Poupaud, Denis Ménochet (Custody, Entebbe, Mary Magdalene) and Swann Arlaud, By The Grace Of God follows three men as they compare their personal experiences of being abused by a now elderly priest when they were Boy Scouts.
On the surface, life couldn’t be more perfect for Alexandre (Poupaud). As a devout Catholic and church-goer, the happily married father of five seems to have it all. Alexandre’s life takes a turn for the unexpected when he comes face to face with Father Preynat (Bernard Verley), the now elderly priest who abused him as a boy, and who, shockingly, is still being allowed to work with young kids.
Taking action against what he sees as an abuse of power by the local Catholic clergy, Alexandre is joined in his quest by two other victims of the priest, François (Denis Ménochet) and Emmanuel (Swann Arlaud). The three men are then forced to go to great lengths to denounce their abuser and the people still protecting him to this day.
Ozon has given us a beautifully acted drama which refuses to take short cuts in the way it tells this heartbreaking story. Interestingly, the filmmaker has decided to tell each man’s story in its own chapter in this brave and delicately-handled account.
While this might seem like an interesting departure for a director who isn’t usually known for handling these sorts of social subjects, there’s no denying that his famously introspective tone is still very much a part of this production.
Ozon is also able to take into account the devastating effects these vile acts can have on their victims, especially in his representation of Emmanuel who after years of substance abuse and alcoholism has also found himself stuck in a rut in a toxic relationship.
Poupaud and Arlaud give two beautifully measured turns, but it has to be said that it’s Ménochet who impresses the most by his natural delivery. Elsewhere, legendary actress and filmmaker Josiane Balasko (Trop Belle Pour Toi, Gazon Maudit) impresses once more as the guilt-stricken mother of one of the victims.
Overall, Francois Ozon has given us a story that is both compassionate and honest. He has also managed to pepper it thought with moments of disarming tenderness. A truly heartening and devastating account.
In Cinemas from Friday October 25th.