By the Grace of God
Melvil Poupaud, Denis Menochet, Swann Arlaud
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…well acted, and often distressing and distasteful – as of course it should be.
There have been more than a few films about child abuse in the Catholic church. This is not one of the best, but it’s unusual inasmuch as the guilt of the central culprit is admitted by all – including him – right from the movie’s beginning. The predator in question, Father Bernard Preynet, molested cub scouts and other boys thirty years ago, was transferred, and is now back in the same area doing Bible study for pre-teens.
One of his former victims, Alexandre Guerin (Melvil Poupaud) – who is now (in 2004) forty and married with five children – seeks justice and (at least) a public acknowledgement and condemnation of what happened. He meets Catholic authorities, and the appalling Preynet himself, but is thwarted in various ways. His own parents are, incidentally, hideously unsympathetic and unsupportive.
Guerin remains a practising Catholic, as do a number of the other victims with whom he proceeds to make common cause. Their differing, though equally traumatised, responses to their history – and the way they all wrestle with the prospect of testifying – provide much of the dramatic impact here, and the story opens out somewhat when the media become involved in the campaign. The focus shifts steadily toward another survivor of abuse, Emmanuel Thomassin (Swann Arlaud), a highly intelligent man in a troubled relationship. And there’s a good scene at a Christmas dinner party.
By The Grace Of God is nothing special, at least in comparison with the importance of its subject. But it’s quite well acted, and often distressing and distasteful – as of course it should be.