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By the Grace of God

  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Photograph: Curzon Artificial Eye

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Compassionate but forensic, François Ozon’s activist drama offers an elegant evisceration of paedophile priests and Vatican evasion.

A kind of #MeToo-inspired filmmaking movement is developing around paedophilia in the Catholic priesthood. While ‘The Club’ showed the priests’ perspective and ‘Spotlight’ gave us a journalist’s point of view, François Ozon focuses on the victims in this compassionate drama. It offers an interconnecting triptych of viewpoints on a true-life case from mid-2010s Lyon – and it’s impossible to be unmoved by the story it’s telling.

The perspectives belong to three men abused by the same priest. Affluent family man Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud) doggedly pursues him right into the church’s maze of phoney procedure and Kafkaesque maneouvring; bullish François (Denis Ménochet) channels his pain into campaigning; and fragile Emmanuel (Swann Arlaud) is stuck in a toxic relationship. The performances contrast nicely, with Arlaud the standout as a man who has just never recovered.

Sexuality – in all its manifestations – flows through Ozon’s work, and here he delves into its darkest corners. There’s no grandstanding; his interest is in showing how these vile acts can warp lives before they’ve even got started. There’s hope here too. A surrogate family of sorts blossoms between these people – women as well as men – trying to free themselves from the past. For the Vatican, there isn’t a rug big enough to sweep it all under. 

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

Release Details

  • Rated:15
  • Release date:Friday 25 October 2019
  • Duration:137 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:François Ozon
  • Screenwriter:François Ozon
  • Cast:
    • Denis Ménochet
    • Swann Arlaud
    • Melvil Poupaud
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