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Film Editorial

bythegracenew.jpg By the Grace of God

Director: François Ozon

Stars: Melvil Poupaud, Denis Ménochet, Éric Caravaca, Swann Arnaud

A dramatization of the recent Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in Lyon may seem an unlikely departure for such a playful genre-juggler as French director Ozon, but this is a sensitive and empathetic account. The story focuses on four semi-fictionalised disparate men who suffered abuse at the hand of a local priest. First is the reserved and still religious businessman Alexandre (Poupaud), who contacts the church to talk about the abuse he suffered, hoping to clear the air before his two sons’ confirmation. Following a frustrating and upsetting sit-down session with the offending priest, supervised by a church official, Alexandre decides to take matters further by writing to fellow victims. In contrast to Alexandre, François (Ménochet) is now an atheist who relishes the chance to undermine the church. This causes some tension with Alexandre, thankfully diffused by diplomatic surgeon, Gilles (Caravaca). The fourth member of the support group is Emmanuel (Arlaud), the most visibly damaged of the men, given to violent seizures and stuck in a toxic relationship. Save for a stunning opening shot of the Archbishop of Lyon watching over the city from his hilltop basilica, Ozon keeps the visuals low-key in a stirring and surprisingly funny drama which sees the director reclaiming his characters from mere victim status. The quartet of actors are perfectly cast, particularly Arlaud, heart-breaking as a man desperate to patch some semblance of a life together.