With his 20th (!) feature film in just 22 years, Paris-born auteur François Ozon is touching such a hot iron that you can still see it glowing on the screen. But By the Grace of God is not a clumsy provocation, but an emotional awakening cinema. We reveal more about this in our review.
Cardinal Barbarin (François Marthouret) at the confirmation of Alexandre’s son Gauthier Guérin (Max Libert).
The plot summary
In 2014 in the French metropolis of Lyon, banker and family man Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud) decides to face his recurring traumas. The devout Catholic was repeatedly sexually abused by a priest (Bernard Verley) for over three years in the 1980s. In order to bring the perpetrator to justice, to break down the system that protected him, but also to protect his children from a similar fate, Alexandre asks the responsible Cardinal Barbarin (Francois Marthouret) for an interview – and is heard, but has no prospect of success Help. To make matters worse, he even learns that the priest who once abused him, who has pleaded guilty to being a pedophile in connection with the allegations, is still in office and working with children – a slap in the face for Alexandre. He then files a police report and goes looking for other victims of abuse. In Francois (Denis Ménochet) and Gilles (Eric Caracava) he finds two who also want to publicly stand up against their tormentor alongside Alexandre…
By the Grace of God Movie Meaning & ending
In 2016, Tom McCarthy’s journalistic drama “Spotlight” won the Oscar in the top category of “Best Film”. It’s about a group of reporters from the Boston Globe who were able to investigate the ritual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic Church in Boston in the late 1970s. The whole film was a punch in the gut. And if there’s one thing you can’t forget to this day, it’s above all the scrolling text at the end of the film, which makes the extent of this scandal really visible with a list of all known church abuse cases around the world. For director François Ozon, who began his last film “The Other Lover” from a woman’s vagina, this topic that has repeatedly dominated the headlines is far from over with the Oscar win for “Spotlight”. His accusatory drama “Praise be to God,” which is based on true events, is one hundred percent on the side of the victims and describes the fight against windmills that Alexandre, Francois and Gilles are happy to undertake in order to finally experience satisfaction away from classic revenge motives. Anyone who does evil must face the consequences.
Alexandre Guérin (Melvil Poupaud) tries to come to terms with the past…
At the same time, the term “doing evil” is not necessarily appropriate here. “Praise be to God” is not about a classic conflict between perpetrator and victim (Ozon takes the side of the three men so rigorously that it is simply not possible to take the side of the church, let alone understand it – not even when the accused priest refers to pedophilia as an illness) and it is also not the goal of those abused to put Father Bernard Preynat behind bars as quickly as possible. After all, his actions have long since expired, so a direct conviction no longer seems possible (in fact, the real Father Preynat had to go to court at the beginning of 2019 – how this came about is also explained in detail in the film). Instead, the three men are more interested in destroying the system in which the clergy can carry out their deeds unhindered under the protection of accomplices who look the other way. For this reason, the three men founded the association “La Parole Libérée”, in German: “The Liberated Word”, in 2014, with which they aimed at other victims and wanted to free the topic of child abuse from the taboo zone. At the same time, it is also about bringing the guilty priest to justice after the statute of limitations for his crimes has expired.
In the case of “Praise be God,” the expansive 137 minutes fly by. The reason for this is François Ozon’s effective direction in combination with the smart script he wrote himself. Because the events surrounding the early incidents and the late preparation are told one after the other from the perspective of Alexandre and the other two men. This not only gives the viewer a diverse insight into how different human souls process horrific acts, but also always elicits new tonal facets and perspectives from the scenery. With the help of his precisely composed shots and images, which are in stark contrast to his otherwise rather lavishly photographed films, Ozon always allows “Praise God” to move between drama and thriller, but also allows himself humor in between, although it is never forced or even has a punchline is written. Rather, it is the audacity of the French clergy, whose statements on sexual abuse are characterized by such dryness that one cannot help but laugh (for example because the exclamation “Thank God” sounds extremely cynical in the context of an abuse press conference). , before you realize the true horror of her words.
Conclusion: “By the Grace of God” is anything but easy to digest, but it makes it easy for the viewer to access it. A strong, important piece of great cinema, like “Spotlight” was.
“By the Grace of God” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from September 26th.