The victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests — who were seen so fleetingly but left such a poignant impression in the Oscar-winning Spotlight — take center stage in the French film By the Grace of God.
Another fact-based story, this one begins in 2014, when a banker in Lyon, France, discovers that the priest who assaulted him 30 years earlier is still ministering to children. The banker takes his complaint to the bishop of Lyon, who ultimately does nothing. The movie’s narrative later passes to another victim who doesn’t know the banker, and then to a third man — giving writer-director François Ozon a chance to use this real-life pursuit of criminal justice to explore the dynamics of several French families of differing character and social status, and how the long-past sexual abuse has deformed all of them in some way.
With a pulsing soundtrack and warm, velvety cinematography, By the Grace of God constitutes a landmark achievement in humanizing this difficult subject and manages to be just as gripping as Spotlight. The case is ongoing, with several of the Catholic authorities depicted having sued to stop the film’s distribution in France in February. (They failed; the movie was a hit in Europe.) Much has happened in the case since the movie’s release, but that’s for you to discover on Google after you see it. And see it you must.
Starts Nov. 8 at Grail Moviehouse