Francois Ozon is back at the top of his game in his new film ‘By the Grace of God.’
Ozon, director of some very unique and unusual films such as ‘8 Women,’ ‘Swimming Pool,’ and ‘The New Girlfriend,’ takes a turn towards fact in a film about the Catholic Church abuse scandal, a true story where three men publicly come out to tell their story about being sexually abused by the same priest when they were very young.
In this French film, Melvil Poupaud, who was amazing in ‘Laurence Anyways,’ plays Alexandre Guérin, married wth children, yet he’s got something in his past that keeps haunting him – the time when he was young and was molested by Father Bernard Preynat (played by Bernard Verley). When he learns that Father Preynat is stil working with children, and not wanting to be on his seeking out justice – he finds two more victims – Francois (Denis Menochet) and Emmanuel (Swann Arlaud), and among them they band together. They form an organization and publicize it, and more victims come forward. But with this brings memories of the past, memories that some of the men can’t get over, but Father Preynat must pay for his sins, and the men won’t stop until Preynat is jailed.
Ozon, who also wrote the film, has chosen the right actors to play the victims. They are all very good but especially Poupaud who carries this heavy burden with him while managing to be a good husband and father to his children without concealing his emotional scars. Like ‘Spotlight,’ the 2015 Best Picture winner which told a similar story from journalists perspective, ‘By the Grace of God’ is more effective because it tells the story from the victims perspective and how a man they, and their parents, trusted, could do something as horrific, evil and criminal to them at such a young age – it’s a crime. Believe it or not, the real Father Preynat is still alive, has never served time for his crimes, and the only punishment he has so far received is to be defrocked by the Archdiocese of Lyon. Shocking.
‘By the Grace of God’ In cinemas on Curzon Home Cinema.
Review by Tim Baros